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January 19, 1995


Experimental drug shown to help Alzheimer patients

Both clinical and neurochemical improvements were evident in five Alzheimer's disease patients who took an experimental drug as part of a study conducted at Pitt.

Researchers say this is the first time a drug appears to have impeded the progression of cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's while also normalizing a molecular imbalance that may be a root of the disease.

Although the study involved a small number of patients, it is one of the longest follow-up studies investigating an Alzheimer's disease drug, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers reported in the Jan. 9 issue of Neurobiology of Aging.

Jay Pettegrew, the study's principle investigator, said the study also supports the theory that molecular underpinnings of Alzheimer's diease may develop in a person's 40s, not during the later years of life when outward symptoms begin to appear.


Pitt pharmacologist part of first gene therapy trial for CF

The results of the world's first gene therapy trial for cystic fibrosis using fat droplets (liposomes)to introduce a normal copy of the gene into cystic fibrosis patients was published this month in the journal Nature Medicine.

A Pitt pharmacologist, Leaf Huang, provided the liposomes used in the study, which was carried out by scientists at the Royal Brompton Hospital/National Heart and Lung Institute in London, St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh.

A spray of DNA coated with a layer of liposomes was used to transfer copies of a normal healthy gene to patients to compensate for the faulty cystic fibrosis genes.

This was the largest gene therapy trial for cystic fibrosis so far, with 15 adult CF patients taking part.


Free treatment is available for 100 children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through on ongoing Pitt research study. Children ages seven through nine who are diagnosed with ADHD may be eligible.

The Pitt treatment study is part of a multi-site study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The study is evaluating current treatments for the disorder to determine which type of care is most effective.

ADHD is a group of related childhood problems that affects about one in 20 school-aged children. Children with ADHD may have problems with their behavior and school performance and may be inattentive, impulsive, overactive and uncooperative.

For information on free ADHD treatment or to register a child to be tested for ADHD, call Cheri Shapiro at 624-0446 or Lynn Martin at 624-4270.


A three-year Ryan White grant has been awarded to Pitt's School of Medicine for development of the Pitt HIV Early Intervention Project. The grant, supported by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, is the only new early HIV-intervention project that has been funded this year in Pennsylvania and the other mid-Atlantic states. The first year of funding totals more than $429,000.

The project will create new services as well as expand existing HIV clinical services offered through the Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment.

The award is from the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act of 1990, which Congress passed to provide health care and support services to people living with HIV and AIDS. The legislation is named for the late Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac who died from AIDS.


The Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (PCI) has received a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to expand its program of clinical trials using biological response modifiers (BRMs), agents that boost the body's immunity against cancer.

BRMs include interleukins and interferons, hormone-like substances that regulate cells participating in an immune response, and natural killer cells, which target and destroy tumors.

PCI investigators are exploring new strategies to improve treatments using BRMs. These include delivering potent BRMs to specific sites using gene therapy; tagging the surface of tumor cells with special markers so they are recognized by the immune system; using BRMs that prevent the spread of tumor cells into nearby blood vessels, and combining BRMs with other agents that kill tumor cells or halt their proliferation.

Currently, PCI has more than 20 clinical protocols using BRMs.

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