World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21, 2002, is intended to raise global awareness of the disease and its impact on families.   As a
son who experienced the personal tragedy of his mother’s illness, U. S. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) created the  Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute with a determination to someday spare others from the devastation of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.   The Institute, which bears his mother’s name, is a non-profit institute dedicated to the study of human memory and Alzheimer’s research.  The Institute is currently working on a breakthrough discovery that could diagnose the disease through a simple medical test.


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    The primary mission of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute is to accelerate the  diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the brain.  The Institute brings together both scientists and researchers working toward development of diagnostic tools, drugs and treatments.  This”translational science”is bridging the current gap between discoveries in the lab and practical applications for patients.

The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute is working with both West VirginiaUniversity in Morgantown, WV, and JohnsHopkinsUniversity in Rockville, MD.  In founding the Institute, Senator Rockefeller brought together a preeminent scientific advisory board, including three Nobel Prize winners, the researcher who isolated the first Alzheimer’s gene, and a scientist who helped decipher the genetic code.

Scientists at the Institute have recently developed a groundbreaking, simple skin test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.  The diagnostic, currently undergoing clinical testing and peer review, is the first cellular-based test designed to  diagnose the disease.  Upon FDA approval, the procedure would be faster, easier to administer and less invasive than other tests currently under development. The Institute also has several treatments for Alzheimer’s in development.
“Early diagnosis will allow Alzheimer’s patients to deal with the disease before it robs them of their ability to even understand that they have it,”Rockefeller noted.  Experts agree that catching the disease in its earliest stages provides more opportunity for treatment while allowing patients and their families to plan for a future with Alzheimer’s.
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    The U.S. alone will see the number of Alzheimer’s patients increase from approximately 4 million in the year 2000 to 8 million by the year 2020.  By 2050, that number will reach nearly 12 million.

“The potential to develop Alzheimer’s increases dramatically as people get older.  Combine the aging of the baby boomers with the average life expectancy increasing to nearly 80 years-of-age, and by 2050 you have the potential for a catastrophic demographic assault on the health care system,”  Rockefeller explained.

“Let no one, for a single moment, think that Alzheimer’s disease is anything but a dreadful, wicked, inexorable nightmare,”  Rockefeller voiced. ”This disease has the potential to affect every one of usand it will take every one of us, contributing in any way we can, to eradicate it from the planet. I am proud to lend my mother’s name to this vital purpose and to honor her memory in this way.”

The Rockefeller family launched the Institute with an initial endowment of $15 million.