Groundbreaking Alzheimer's research happening in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found Alzheimer's-related damage is actually caused by both when it starts and where it starts in the brain.

Steve Waterhouse's wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at 54.

He didn't notice memory loss, but he did see she was mixing up numbers in their company's finances.

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"All of a sudden, her performance was slipping, and that had never happened," Waterhouse said.

Dr. Melissa Murray specializes in early onset Alzheimer's research.

She said new research is showing that those who get the disease early aren't necessarily having memory issues, but instead having trouble with calculating numbers, behavior changes and imbalance.

"We were able to understand that there's actually great differences in the brain cells across the different types of Alzheimer's diseases," Dr. Murray said.

This is all thanks to people who have donated their brains to research. Waterhouse's wife, Gina, is one of them.

"When she dies, her brain will be taken to the Mayo Clinic and analyzed," Waterhouse said. "Every year, they do an analysis of her brain to see how her cognition is doing.

They do that so they can determine what they're getting when they finally get the brain."

Recently, Dr. Murray analyzed 1,400 brains and found Alzheimer's needs to be looked at based on ones age.

She said the disease needs to be looked at as three different subtypes, and thinks by doing that, they can find a treatment plan.

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"One of our goals is to actually interfere with that targeting response to slow it down or hopefully halted and then reverse it." Dr. Murray said.

Waterhouse said he realized his wife may not be the first person to beat Alzheimer's, but that's OK.

"She says, 'I don't really care if I'm the first one but I'd like to meet the first one,'" Waterhouse said.

If you want to help, the Mayo Clinic is always looking for Alzheimer's patients to participate in studios; you can reach out directly the hospital to get involved or sign up to donate your brain.

In two weeks, the Alzheimer's Association will have its annual walk in Jacksonville to raise money for research.