Patty Whaley will never forget the signs.
“Forgetting to pick up the kids was one of the first signs,” Patty said. “Which was really frustrating because I didn’t understand why.”
At first, she thought maybe her husband was just being lazy. But it still didn’t make sense. Then one Sunday before church, she knew something was wrong.
“He didn’t know how to tie his tie,” Patty said. “I knew then there was something else going on.”
At only 44 years old, Barry Whaley, an engineer and recent nursing school graduate, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Now, at 47, he is unable to work.
“Watching somebody who was so smart not being able to do simple tasks you know is heartbreaking,” Patty said.
Patty is praying for a miracle. And the first steps toward getting there are happening at the Indiana School of Medicine Neuroscience Center, where researchers are opening doors to the mind with some incredible results.
Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Andrew Saykin is part of a groundbreaking study in which scientists combined genetic data with brain imaging to identify a gene associated with plaque in the brain. The discovered a second gene also related to plaque.
“It’s actually an exciting time and I am optimistic,” Saykin said. “These could potentially serve as a target for drug development.”
Saykin said they developed a statistical map made up of 555 brains to show regions of plaque. The hope is to stop or slow the development of plaque in the brain so you can stop or slow the development of Alzheimer’s.
“So there’s an opportunity to intervene if we can detect the plaque early and then develop medications that would interfere with the depositing of the plaque or facilitate is clearance,” he said.
Patty believes this research means hope for her husband and prays he can fight off this disease so he can be an active part of his daughters’ lives.
“I’m very hopeful,” she said.