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Aging Committee Examines Promising Directions in Alzheimer’s Research and Care Models

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement

Click HERE to read Senator Casey’s opening statement


Washington, D.C.—Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease.  By 2050, this rate will double to every 33 seconds unless we take action. 


In order to provide insights on promising directions in Alzheimer’s research and models of care to help those living with the disease, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Bob Casey, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, held a hearing today titled, “Alzheimer’s: New Directions in Biomedical Research and Caregiving.”


“The robust funding that Congress has provided is enabling scientists to explore a myriad of new pathways that could lead to earlier detection and potential therapies. From the ocular and the cardiovascular, to the genome and the microbiome, to the immune and the lymphatic systems, researchers are leaving no system unexamined and no cell unturned,” said Senator Collins, a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease.  “From accelerating research to advancing care, every year that we gather as one ‘sea of purple,’ we make waves.  While Alzheimer’s robs our loved ones of precious memories, I will continue to do everything I can to make Alzheimer’s itself a memory one day.”


“Alzheimer’s disease impacts different communities differently, so research and clinical trials must include people who are diagnosed at younger ages, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas,” said Senator Casey. “We must tackle this disease from every angle—including continuing research for a cure and ensuring medical professionals and community organizations can provide the best care possible to every single population.”


In light of two recent disappointing Alzheimer’s drug failures, experts at the hearing described promising research areas.  Witnesses also discussed caregiving supports and care planning to help improve outcomes and quality of life for individuals and families facing Alzheimer’s. 


The rate of Americans dying from dementia has more than doubled in the United States since the year 2000.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and the risk increases with age.  An estimated 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s.  If we continue along this trajectory, Alzheimer’s is projected to affect nearly 14 million Americans and surpass $1 trillion in costs by 2050.


This hearing was held in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual advocacy forum, which brings more than 1,000 advocates from around the country to Washington, D.C. 


Witnesses included:


  • Mary Dysart Hartt, Caregiver, Hampden, Maine.  Mrs. Hartt spoke about her experience as a caregiver to her husband, Mike, who also joined her.  Mr. Hartt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years ago at the age of 62.  After the diagnosis, Mrs. Hartt retired early, sold their farm, and simplified their lives so she could take care of her husband full-time.  While her life has been turned upside down by this disease, she remains optimistic and focuses on the things she and her husband still can do rather than dwell on what they cannot do.  Mrs. Hartt remains active and is planning to run her 41st marathon in Boston with the goal of raising $8,000 dollars for Alzheimer’s research.


  • Clay Jacobs, Executive Director, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, North Abington Township, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Jacobs provided an overview of his responsibility for the Alzheimer Association’s Pennsylvania chapter’s programs.  He discussed his work to increase access to educational programs and support services, as well as strengthening outreach to underserved communities. 


  • Sharon Fekrat, MD, FACS, Professor, Ophthalmology and Surgery, Duke School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.  As a leading expert on developing techniques to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early using multimodal retinal and optic nerve imaging, Dr. Fekrat shared the results of an innovative study she recently published, which found that loss of blood vessels in the retina could signal Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms begin.  She is working to develop a noninvasive eye scan for Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr. Fekrat’s work indicates a new level of understanding in the pathology of the disease, bringing together expertise from multiple disciplines to tackle Alzheimer’s. 


  • Richard J. Hodes, MD, Director, National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.  Dr. Hodes discussed the basic science, including genetics and pathology, as well as new molecular targets, biomarkers, and partnerships with industry to accelerate therapies.  His testimony also included insights on new research in caregiving and care planning to better support individuals and families with Alzheimer’s.


Click HERE to read their testimonies.