Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Page 17

Studying Alzheimer's Disease

Dr. Gumrah Aliyev, medical researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, has recently been awarded two major grants for funding study on Alzheimer's disease. The first grant, from the U.S. Presidential New Technology Development Grant Foundation, provides $50,000 each year for direct research; the second, from the Philip Morris External Research Program, is a three-year research grant for $680,000. Aliyev [whose name is sometimes spelled through Russian as Gjumrakch Aliev] is an Azerbaijani from Nakhchivan and holds an M.D. from the Baku Medical Institute (cum laude, 1982) as well as a Ph.D. and Doctor of Sciences degree from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University College of London (1989, 1995). He currently co-directs the Microscopy Research Center at Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, which focuses on the study of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases as well as tumors and especially the role of brain blood flow and metabolism.

Dr. Gumrah Aliyev

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects millions of people worldwide, 4 million of these just in the United States. According to the Alzheimer's Association, by 2025, an estimated 22 million people worldwide will have Alzheimer's. Patients with this disease suffer from memory loss, disorientation, confusion, mood swings and even changes in personality. The disease is difficult for doctors to diagnose, as they have to first eliminate all other possible causes or disorders that could be causing the dementia. As yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer's.

Dr. Aliyev's goal is to find out how to diagnose Alzheimer's disease in its earlier stages. With an early diagnosis, Alzheimer's patients would have time to plan for the future and could begin treatment sooner to try to slow the effects of the disease.

Both grants will support his ongoing research, which uses genetically engineered mice as a model for studying Alzheimer's in humans. Specifically, he is studying the development of Alzheimer's disease in mice that are exposed to hypoxia [oxygen deficiency], thereby mimicking the effects of smoking on humans. "I'm looking at Alzheimer's disease as a vascular disease with neurological consequences," Aliyev says. "I want to find out how smoking affects the development of cerebrovascular diseases, and therefore Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular diseases in general."

Another major part of the grant will go toward the study of the possible protective effect of natural antioxidants such as a flavonoid derivative - namely Morin hydrate, which is derived from a plant in the Brazilian rain forest. This antioxidant may block or at least delay the development of Alzheimer's, Aliyev says.

He has authored more than 250 articles, including a recent article on Alzheimer's disease that has been considered one of the top studies worldwide in the Alzheimer's research field; this article was published in the January 2002 issue of "Brain Pathology." He is an editorial board member for three medical journals: "Journal of Submicroscopic Cytology and Pathology," "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" and "Histology and Histopathology." He will also be featured in the upcoming 2002 edition of "Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare."

One day, Aliyev hopes to set up a special Aging Research Center in Azerbaijan. He believes that cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases all have a common background and therefore can be treated in similar ways. Moreover, since genetic factors are directly related to the onset of Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases, Azerbaijan's population - with its traditional tendency toward intermarriage between close relatives - is at high risk for the disease. Unfortunately, there has not yet been any study or focus on preventing these diseases in Azerbaijan.

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