American Health Assistance Foundation Awards $6.4 Million in Research Grant Funds:

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Scientists explore promising work in understanding Alzheimer's disease, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma

CLARKSBURG, MD.-The American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF) today announced the award of $6.4 million dollars in grants to researchers seeking preventions, new treatments, and cures for Alzheimer's disease, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Awards, ranging from $50,000 to $400,000 were made to researchers in the United States, Australia, Germany, and Britain. In all, a total of 40 grants were awarded. “With this year's awards, AHAF is continuing its mission of bringing the world closer to eliminating these devastating illnesses. On behalf of our donors, who support this research, we are proud to have awarded over $96 million dollars to the search for cures,” said Kathleen Honaker, Executive Director, AHAF.

The sponsoring organization, the American Health Assistance Foundation, is organized to support three programs, Alzheimer's Disease Research, Macular Degeneration Research and National Glaucoma Research. Funds are provided for research and public educational materials in these three age-related disease areas. In the most recent awards, $4,453,522 went to Alzheimer's disease research, $1,049,439 to age-related macular degeneration research, and $923,022 for glaucoma research.

According to Guy Eakin, Ph.D., Director of Research Grants, AHAF, “the foundation seeks to identify and fund the building blocks that lead to great discoveries. Our philosophy is to take good ideas, stimulate their early growth, and leverage our donors' investment to help these promising, and often young, scientists receive major corporate and Federal support. Supporting high caliber research is a proud history at AHAF. Our donors have fostered tremendous discoveries, the impact of which has been recognized in many ways, including being among the first to identify the merit of and fund the early research of Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, who later won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine based, in part, on his American Health Assistance Foundation supported research,” said Dr. Eakin.

The recently awarded studies will cover a wide array of topics related to age-related diseases. The majority of supported research is focused on the fundamental molecular changes that lead to development of the diseases. However, the recently funded studies will also examine questions such as: does sleep deprivation cause or contribute to the later symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or what role can aerobic exercise programs have on Alzheimer's disease progression. Other research will look into the anti-Alzheimer's disease properties of turmeric, a spice often found in curry dishes, and its potential for lowering the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Additional work will study the effects of vitamin D on glaucoma, as well as the possible protective role that anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative botanical compounds such as turmeric spice, broccoli and honeybee propolis (a popular nutritional supplement) have on age-related macular degeneration. “These are just a fraction of the exciting and very innovative studies in this year's awards,” said Dr. Eakin. “This is the type of well-designed and thoroughly considered research that is our best strategy for providing stepping stones to the ultimate treatments and cures for Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma,” added Dr. Eakin.

Currently, there are an estimated 26 million people worldwide living with the degenerative brain disorder called Alzheimer's disease. Already as many as one out of every two people age 85 and over in the United States may have Alzheimer's disease and this age group is one of the fastest growing segments of the population. By the year 2050 more than 15 million Americans are predicted to be affected. Alzheimer's disease was discovered over 100 years ago by a German physician, Alois Alzheimer. However, despite significant scientific breakthroughs, there is still no cure for this devastating neurological disorder.

Approximately 1.8 million Americans 40 years and older have advanced age-related macular degeneration, which causes deterioration of the macula, the central area of the eye's retina that processes sharp, clear straight-ahead vision. There are two forms of age-related macular degeneration, dry and wet. Another 7.3 million people have intermediate age-related macular degeneration and face a substantial risk of vision loss. The government estimates that, by 2020, 2.9 million people will have advanced macular degeneration. Scientists are still learning about the causes and treatment of this eye disease for which there is currently no cure.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight,” because it often has no symptoms until there is irreversible vision loss. This makes it the leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting approximately 65 million people, according to the World Health Organization. Although it can be clinically managed, there is no cure for glaucoma.

“Continuing to fund research for these three diseases is of vital importance. Only through research will additional treatments and cures be found. Unless new treatments are discovered, as our population ages, these devastating illnesses will continue to rob patients and their families of a quality life, and place all of us under the tremendous burden of caring for those affected by these diseases,” said Dr. Eakin.

The American Health Assistance Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding cures for age-related and degenerative diseases by funding research worldwide on Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. AHAF also provides the public with free information about these diseases, including risk factors, preventative lifestyles, available treatments, and coping strategies. For more information visit www.ahaf.org.