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18 Fearless Years


Gary Barg - Editor-in-chief The Tao of Tau for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

I have been blessed to meet some remarkable people since the first issue of Today’s Caregiver magazine rolled off the presses on July 4th, 1995. I still quote so much of the advice that the remarkable Dana Reeve shared with me late in the last century and it is always a privilege to spend time and talk with Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, the caregiving thought leaders, and many celebrities who are also caring for their loved ones. Of course, all of the above-mentioned folks would agree with me that the most amazing people any of us meet are the family caregivers who care for their loved ones on a daily basis.

I bring this all up because of all the remarkable folks I have met so far, one in particular, I believe, may be on the verge of breaking the puzzling riddle of Alzheimer’s disease wide open. Dr. Claude Wischik has for decades fought against the prevailing winds to validate his theory that aggregated tau protein causes the tangles creating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He has maintained this belief despite resistance from the majority of those in the research field supporting the amyloid theory, which postulates that an increase in secreted beta-amyloid peptides leads to the formation of plaques, eventually resulting in the death of brain cells. As we have seen recently, there have been repeated failures in several amyloid clinical trials.

Personally, I speak for everyone who has or has had a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease—any light at the end of the tunnel is a welcome sight.

What impresses me most about Dr. Wischik is that, in true old-fashioned clinical researcher fashion, he never let these prevailing winds move him off the course where he felt the facts were leading him and his dedication should serve as an example to the rest of us. After all, isn’t that what “fearless caregiving” is about?

Family caregivers have also played an extremely important part in his research. According to Dr. Wischik,

“From the early days when I used to collect brain tissue in Cambridge, I felt very embarrassed at having to ask relatives about consenting for the collection to study the disease. But I was overwhelmed by the essential altruism and generosity of people. I thought that maybe 30 percent or 40 percent would say ‘Yes.’ In fact, it turned out that more than 95 percent of people, when approached, said ‘Yes.’ So there’s a deep sense of community and commonality of purpose that we all somehow benefit. I am always conscious of their deep generosity and really think that they’re always with me and that motivates me in an extremely strong way.”

We caregivers are being asked to help his mission one more time as he is presently recruiting for a clinical trial testing the tau theory. If the results of that trial confirm their previous data, there could be a drug out by 2016. As for the success or failure of achieving that goal, it all comes down to having enough folks sign up for the trial.

Now, I would consider that a great 60th birthday present, indeed. Even better is when I get that invitation to Dr. Wischik’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry ceremony after he is hopefully successful in creating such a drug.

Ahem, Dr. Wischik, I have my passport and warm overcoat ready for the trip to Sweden. Just sayin’.

Gary Barg
Today's Caregiver magazine

Friday June 7, 2013


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