Local researchers are recruiting and screening patients for a national study to determine whether a compound found in red wine and chocolate could slow the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

About Alzheimer’s

Facts:Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease.Symptoms generally begin to appear after age 60.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, or loss of cognitive functioning, among older people.Early signs can include:Getting lost.Trouble handling money and paying bills.Repeating questions.Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.Poor judgment.Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.Mood and personality changes.National Institute on Aging

About 10 people with memory loss will be selected to participate at the Medical University of South Carolina, one of 26 research hospitals taking part in the study.

The study will examine the effects of concentrated doses of resveratrol, a compound found in wine, chocolate, tomatoes and peanuts, among other foods. Scientists recently have managed to isolate resveratrol and manufacture it in pill form, said Dr. Jacobo Mintzer, a geriatric psychiatrist at MUSC who is leading the study locally.

“This allows us to test the compound as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease for the first time,” said Mintzer, who also practices at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. He noted that previous research has suggested the health benefits of resveratrol, but scientists suspect the concentration found in foods and beverages is not enough to produce noticeable benefits to people with dementia.

Half of the study’s participants randomly will be selected to take the pills twice daily for a year, while the remaining participants will receive a placebo, he said. The patients periodically will be tested over the year, including through brain scans and by paper-and-pencil exams.

The goal is determining whether resveratrol has any beneficial impact on the specific cell processes in the brain. If an effect is shown, a larger study would be initiated, Mintzer said.

MUSC received a $194,000 federal grant for the current study. About 120 patients will participate nationally in the research, Mintzer said.

An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, the federal organization funding the study. That includes about 80,000 South Carolinians, according to a 2011 report by the Alzheimer’s Association. That number is expected to rise to about 100,000 by 2025.

For more information on the study, contact the MUSC research department at 740-1592.