A clinical trial taking place at Georgetown University Medical Center seeking to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain has entered its second phase.

The [Medical Center’s Memory Disorders Program](http://memory.georgetown.edu/), which houses the largest clinical trial program for Alzheimer’s patients in the D.C. area, is participating in a gene therapy study testing multiple drugs.

The study will attempt to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by injecting the CERE-110 gene into the brain and testing its effect on the production of nerve growth factor, a protein responsible for maintaining nerve cells. When the gene is injected at the diseased site, the nerve growth factor produced could prevent further damage to the nerve cells in the region and potentially halt certain symptoms, including dementia.

New treatments and drugs must go through rigorous tests before gaining approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to R. Scott Turner, director of the department of neurology, the Phase II studies will include up to 50 participants. The process has already passed Phase I, which is usually completed on a smaller scale.

“If all goes well, and [CERE-110] is proven safe and has benefits, then we can go to the next phase,” Turner said.

According to Turner, the Memory Disorders Program was chosen for its record of accomplishments and the Medical Center’s strong neurosurgery department. The CERE-110 Phase II trial will be the first gene therapy study at the Memory Disorders Program.

The Phase II trial will last two years, according to the information released by the National Institutes of Health. The procedure will include a placebo control – meaning all patients will undergo surgery, but only half will receive the active gene. The study is also a double-blind experiment, in which both the researchers interacting with the patients and the patients themselves will not know whether or not they are receiving the treatment.

“This trial is part of a multi-site study across the country that is being led by the University of California, San Diego,” Turner said.

UCSD received a $5.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging at NIH to support the study of CERE-110, according to a press release from Ceregene, Inc., the biopharmaceutical company that manufactured the CERE-110 gene used in the study.

“The development of CERE-110 was led by [Raymond Bartus,] Ceregene’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer and is a continuation of the pioneering work of Mark Tuszynski, Ceregene’s co-founder and a professor of neurosciences at UCSD,” said Jeffrey Ostrove, president and chief executive officer of Ceregene, in the press release.

The study has started accepting volunteers. According to Turner, volunteers for studies are crucial for the development of new treatments and there are options for those who are wary of invasive techniques.

“We have other studies where Alzheimer’s patients can join without the need of neurosurgery,” Turner said.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that slowly deteriorates a person’s ability to learn, communicate and reason. There is currently no cure and the cause is unknown. About 5.3 million people are living with the disease. [The Alzheimer’s Association is sponsoring a fundraising walk on Saturday, Oct. 17 at the National Mall](http://www.kintera.org/FAF/home/default.asp?ievent=299596). “

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