Genetic research to treat Alzheimer’s disease could soon come to the upstate.

Genetic research for Alzheimer's disease
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:34 PM EST
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GREENWOOD, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Dr. Steve Skinner is a geneticist and the director of the Greenwood Genetics center in Greenwood County. For the last several decades the center has conducted genetic research on mostly pediatric disorders, but now they want to look at Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers hope to study the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of our cells.

“We see a lot of problems with the mitochondria in our patients,” Dr. Skinner said. “So if we can understand it, we could create treatment to not only benefit adults with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, but also pediatric patients.”

Evidence suggests that damaged mitochondria’s likely play a fundamental role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Skinner hopes to study a new technology called MitoSense. It takes healthy mitochondria from one person and puts them inside another person.

“The hope is to increase energy production in the cell and reduce inflammation due to cellular stress,” Dr. Skinner said. “We don’t think it will be a cure, but at least maybe the cells will function better and improve the quality of life.”

The new research is thanks to a $5 million funding proposal in governor Henry McMaster’s 2023-2024 fiscal budget. It’s named in honor of former governor Carroll Campbell.

“My brother was a two-time governor of South Carolina, prior to that he was in the house of representatives,” Campbell’s sister Anne Mangum said.

The federal courthouse in Greenville was also named in honor of him. Campbell died at the age of 65 from Alzheimer’s disease. His sister, Anne Mangum, says he was officially diagnosed with the illness five years prior.

“It knocked Carroll for a loop,” Mangum said. “He was in the prime of his life. It was devastating, just devastating.”

She says currently there is very little research on Alzheimer’s disease in the upstate area and that is why this funding in Greenwood is so important.

“The more we have outside of Charleston and Columbia, the more we have the better,” Mangum said.

Dr. Skinner says MitoSense will likely be used in combination with other Alzheimer’s treatments. If the funding is approved he says the research has the potential to help a lot of people.

“If this is successful, clinical trials could be available to patients across the state,” Dr. Skinner said. “Eventually we would want to involve not just the VA hospital, but Prisma and MUSC and other partners.”

The governor’s spending proposal is just an outline. Lawmakers still have to approve it. In past years the budget was generally approved in June or July.