OHSU

Research

Research at the Layton Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease Center

Research at the Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center is integrated around the activities of the Oregon Alzheimer Disease Center (OADC), one of 30 national centers funded by the National Institute of Aging. The OADC ranks among the top centers nationally. The OADC is at the forefront of a worldwide effort to discover the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, find effective treatments, and improve the quality of life for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Clinical Research

The clinical research group has focused on several key areas of the field, especially understanding differing rates of progression and cognitive decline as compared to optimal cognitive health in the elderly. Scientists are studying methods of gauging the progression of Alzheimer’s disease through research in genetics, neuroimaging, and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers.  Innovative diagnostic tools are also being explored.

This clinical research program integrates basic research in several key areas including studies of genetic markers, transgenic mouse models of AD and neuropathology.  A major recent emphasis is on applying new genetic technologies to identify genetic variations that relate to the onset of cognitive decline.  Center investigators are leading a major NIH collaborative study with eight other centers in the U.S. to identify the key genes that are associated with age at onset of Alzheimer’s disease as well as healthy brain aging in hundreds of patients.

The Layton Center’s clinical research group is noted for:

  • Identifying clinical and genetic factors which appear to modulate the onset of Alzheimer’s (and probably other neurodegenerative diseases)
  • Demonstrating for the first time that there are structural as well as cognitive changes that can be detected in the brain years before memory problems are evident.

The group’s neuroimaging work is particularly notable for having among the world’s largest longitudinal MRI databases of normal aging brains. These data are readily available to other researchers.

Layton Center Longitudinal Cohort Studies

  • As part of the research supported by the OADC and Veteran’s Affairs, the Oregon Brain Aging Study (OBAS) focuses on identifying factors that protect individuals from developing dementia in later life and promote a maximal cognitive health span.  OBAS is the only study in the U.S. that specifically focuses on the brain of the healthy oldest old, individuals 85 years or older.
  • Klamath Exceptional Aging project (KEAP) is a community based study that follows longitudinally, rural residing persons 85 or older in the Klamath basin of Oregon.
  • The African American Dementia and Aging Project (AADAPt) is a longitudinal study of brain aging in elderly African Americans in Northeast Portland.

All data is collected using the Uniform Data Set of the National Alzheimer’s Coordination Center.

Clinical Treatment Trials

Clinical Treatment Trials are a vital component of the Center. These trials include drugs targeted to ameliorate the symptoms of memory failure, as well as to slow the progression of disease. The Layton Center was among the first Centers in the U.S. to conduct a trial treatment for patients with Alzheimer's disease that was targeted toward removing the amyloid protein that accumulates in the brain and is thought to be toxic to nerve cells. The OADC is an active member of the National Institute on Aging's Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study Group. Two OADC investigators are leading national efforts in clinical trials with this group. One is examining DHA (fish oil) as a treatment for Alzheimer’s and the other is looking at home-based technologies for assessing the effects of AD preventions. The OADC has special expertise in complementary and alternative medicine and is one of the few centers that have conducted controlled clinical trials with alternative treatments including yoga, ginkgo biloba, and placebo effects. The Center is also an active participant in the Alzheimer’s Neuroimaging initiative establishing biomarkers for neurodegenerative disease progression.

ORCATECH

The Oregon Center for Aging and Technology (ORCATECH) is a new and innovative research program supported primarily by the National Institute on Aging and closely integrated with the OADC. The goal is to develop technologies that optimize health, independence and quality of life for our aging population. ORCATECH is a collaborative research center that includes academic, industry and community partners. Through interactive and cross-disciplinary research, ORCATECH seeks to identify technologies that help meet the challenges of aging, especially around two key reasons for loss of independence: loss of mobility and decline in cognitive function.