Pat Summitt, the renowned basketball coach and champion for Alzheimer’s research, passed away this morning. As head coach of the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers basketball team she achieved legendary status as the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. Aside from her dominance on the court, she will forever be remembered as a fierce advocate to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
After being diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, she built the Pat Summitt Foundation to help raise awareness, fund research, and support families facing the disease. Her foundation has awarded $800,000 in research grants and has united scientists working for a cure.
In 2014, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) produced a promotional video featuring Pat, her tenacious fight against the disease, and discussed how animal research and testing has helped advanced progress against Alzheimer’s. Animal research and testing has played a significant role in the pursuit of an Alzheimer’s cure. Scientists are able to study rodents with the same amyloid protein in the brain that is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. That model allows researchers to explore options to remove or block the protein. Alongside mice, monkeys have played and continue to play an indispensable role in Alzheimer’s research. Researchers looking at what is happening in a healthy monkey brain helps scientists better understand how the human brain works, and the role of cognitive and motor problems in diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s research is critical. It is estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and current costs associated with the disease are $236 billion. The Alzheimer’s Association projects that the disease is estimated to cost more than $1 trillion by 2050 if a treatment is not discovered.
Pat was an amazing coach and a passionate advocate for a cure. To read FBR’s coverage on Pat’s legacy, please click here.