Alzheimer’s speaker appreciates broad-based disease examination

By Patrick McGee

For years, Alzheimer’s disease researchers have focused on amyloid, the protein that builds up in the brain and interferes with brain cell connectivity. While amyloids unquestionably have a central role in the disease, Dr. Sid E. O’Bryant says, there are other factors not getting enough scientific attention.

Dr. O’Bryant, a psychologist by training, believes scientists should look at Alzheimer’s disease more holistically.

“Alzheimer’s is a very complex disease. It’s not one thing. It’s not one pathology,” said Dr. O’Bryant, known for developing a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Sid E. O’Bryant, Interim Director of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Dr. Sid E. O’Bryant, Interim Director of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research.

The Interim Director of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research will elaborate on his views during the Friends of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center Spring Public Forum on March 25 at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. O’Bryant also serves as an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the UNT Health Science Center.

His presentation, titled “Blood-Based Tools in Diagnosis and Novel Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease: Another Hope for the Future,” begins at 7 p.m. in the Simmons/Hamon Biomedical Research Buildings. Reservations are available by calling 214-648-2344 or by emailing rsvp@utsouthwestern.edu.

UT Southwestern’s participation in major anti-amyloid drug trials represents the institution’s decades-long focus on amyloid buildup as the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. O’Bryant’s presentation acknowledges UT Southwestern’s vigor in considering all possible breakthroughs in disease research while still playing a prominent role in some of the world’s most important research and drug trials.

Dr. O’Bryant said Alzheimer’s disease researchers should model what has been done with great success by scientists studying cancer and heart disease. He said treatment for those diseases break down along the lines of what type of cancer and heart disease patients have – but such breakdowns are not happening in Alzheimer’s research.

“I’m hoping that others will embrace this notion that Alzheimer’s is very, very complex. It’s not as straightforward as we initially thought it would be, and, because it’s so complex, we need to take a different view on it,” he said.

Dr. O’Bryant has developed a highly accurate blood test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. In 2012, he received a $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue his work on the tests, first reported in JAMA Neurology in 2010. In January, Dr. O’Bryant was awarded an Early Career Impact Award by the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences Foundation.

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Dr. O’Bryant majored in psychology at Louisiana State University before earning a master’s degree and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Albany. He joined the UNT Health Science Center in 2012 after six years with the Texas Tech University Health Science Center.

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