Toledo's fight against Alzheimer's

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - There's a very good chance you either know, love or are even caring for someone battling Alzheimer’s.

Six million people in the U.S. suffer from the dignity-robbing disease, and it can hit anyone.

But there’s a race to find effective treatment and one day a cure – and some if it happening right here in northwest Ohio.

It all centers on Jim Yark.

The man who would build up Yark Automotive Group into what it is today was himself struck down by the disease.

“He was losing train of thought. He was losing his keys. It sounds so silly - it literally starts with those things,” Jim’s daughter, Emily Yark recalls. “It's really hard not to think about him every day. And he's my dad.”

It’s a story with which thousands of people with loved ones battling Alzheimer’s can relate.

Now, years after Jim Yark died, the dealerships he helped build and its customers give back - tens of thousands of dollars a year are donated to help with Alzheimer’s care and research, either to Memory Lane Care Services in Toledo, or the Alzheimer’s Association.

“A big part of where us Yark kids come in is preventing that from happening to other families. Because man it's a struggle. It's very hard,” Yark said.

Research dollars from the Alzheimer’s Association travels just a few miles from the Yark dealership down the road to the University of Toledo Health Science Campus.

UT researchers Dr. Isaac Schiefer and Dr. Joshua Park are in the lab, and the work is personal.

"I’ve seen it in my family,” Dr. Schiefer said. “It's sad to know someone who's had a such a long full life, then all of a sudden - a shadow of themselves."

Their relentless work is paying off.

Dr. Schiefer's lab focuses on the discovery and development of drugs that treat brain disorders with a special emphasis on Alzheimer’s.
He’s investigating the potential for a new molecule that's improved memory in lab mice bred with Alzheimer’s'.

“We'll know by 2025 if what we're doing right now will get us there,” Schiefer said.

Dr. Park focuses on something different. A chemical called mini-GAGR – a byproduct of a food additive – used in cake frosting or pudding.

“We found this food additive actually improves memory in the eyes of a mouse, and that was shocking,” Park said. “There are thousands of molecules out there. They need to be tested, but we believe this could be a breakthrough in maybe five years.”

It would be administered through a nasal spray and has shown to have very few side effects, but multiple benefits.

"Most other treatment cannot get to the brain very well,” Dr. Park said. “Ours go to the brain very quickly and stay their long enough to have beneficial impact.”