The Aging Mind Foundation has handed over a $700,000 check to UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute to help continued efforts in finding the root cause of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
It’s the largest chunk of money put together yet by the five-year-old nonprofit, which gives to a different dementia research-focused philanthropy each year. Aging Mind has given about $2 million overall, with an emphasis on programs that look specifically at the cause of Alzheimer’s.
“You can’t do anything else correctly until you know what’s causing it,” says Laree Hulshoff, co-founder of the Aging Mind Foundation.
To that end, the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases made a significant discovery this year. Scientists at the center said they found a “Big Bang” of the disease, meaning the moment that “a healthy protein becomes toxic but has not yet formed deadly tangles in the brain.” That has spurred efforts to find treatments that stabilizes those proteins before they become toxic.
Dr. Marc Diamond, who directs the center, called the discovery “perhaps the biggest finding we have made to date.”
“We are hopeful the scientific field has turned a corner in identifying the genesis of the disease and we can target the diagnoses at its earliest stage, before the symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline become apparent,” Diamond said in a statement.
Alzheimer’s is the fifth-leading cause of death for people aged 65 or older. It continues to touch more and more people, in one way or another, as the population ages and medical advancements continue. That fact is one reason Hulshoff and Aging Mind have a leg up in finding partners to help in fundraising.
“Everybody that is on the Aging Mind board has been touched by this, either close friends or family,” she says. “They’re the most focused board you’ve ever seen. Not only do they do what they say they’ll do, they do more.”
Aging Mind takes individual donations and holds an annual gala—the 4th annual will be in March—as well as smaller events throughout the year.
The foundation had originally set out to raise $450,000 for UT Southwestern, but fundraising far surpassed that goal.
“Each year, it has increased,” Hulshoff says. “We had an incredible year last year.”