SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Nearly 6 million Americans wake up each day and forget who or where they are. Those people have Alzheimer’s and battle the simple things most of us take for granted, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Right now there’s no cure, but a Shreveport start-up hopes to change things.
Themessia Callier Fenceroy loves looking at a particular photo of her mother Bennie. Bennie loved to go to church, dress up and wear the best lipsticks but Themessia admits her mother is not the same woman.
“That was a pivotal point for me is when the paranoia and the repetition set in,” she said. Those signs caused Themessia to take her mother to the doctor.
“He asked her do you know what year it is and she said sure, and he said tell me what year it is and she said 1975 and it was 2009,” she said.
That was the year Bennie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“My eyes were just in tears because I’m talking to her every day,” she said. “I’m talking to her every day and I’m seeing yeah she’s repeating things but in my mind surely you know what today is and all that good stuff.”
Themessia has been helping her mother for more than a decade but always wished for more help. “Whatever you can do to try and help that loved one that will not cause them anymore pain that they’re going through, you’re going to try it,” she said. “I am anyways.”
Some people are hopeful olive oil could do the trick.
Local startup company Oleolive is studying and developing oleocanthal found in extra virgin oil, to treat and possibly cure Alzheimer’s.
“We’re thinking that our compound has a lot of promise for clearing amyloid beta from the brain and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said chief operating officer, Alana Gray.
Dr. Amal Kaddoumi along with Khalid el Sayed spent ten years studying oleocanthal in a laboratory at the University of Louisiana Monroe before they partnered up with Kiley Grant, Alana Gray and James Cardelli in 2017 to create their company.
They recently won a federal grant for $350,000 to study the safety and efficiency of their product in animals.
“We absolutely rely on external sources of funding to move this type of research forward,” said Gray.
David Smith is the executive director of the entrepreneurial acceleration program in Shreveport . He helps local startups in the North Louisiana area and discovered Oleolive awhile back.
“We started looking at it and we said oh my gosh this can be patented, this can be licensed, and we think there is a market,” he said.
Smith believes helping a startup like Oleolive is not only a good thing for them, but also for our area. “They go out and win a government grant (and) all of a sudden that starts validating the process and that’s what we want,” he said. “That’s money coming in to North Louisiana for innovative technology starts ups.”
Right now, Cardelli says people can take olive oil now but there some issues. “Most of the products in stores around Shreveport are not really extra virgin olive oil,” he said.
So Oleolive imports the oil from Greece. You would have to take 3 tablespoons every day, so Oleolive is working to create a powder that would be easier for people to take.
“Being a laboratory scientist is fun and engaging, it’s difficult at times, but you never really can take that into a commercial space and actually help people,” said Cardelli. “With this company we think we can actually do that.”
For Themessia, she’s hopeful for answers.
“To know that there is something in place now that’s a possibility is wonderful,” she said. But until then, Themessia will continue to help her mother fight this disease no matter how hard things get.
“We’ll just continue to take this one day at a time because I truly depend on God because even now I have to say that we’re blessed,” she said.
Themessia plans to enter a clinical trial to see if there’s a chance she could develop Alzheimer’s in the future.
Right now Olelive is also using olive oil to create skin care products and possibly treat breast cancer as well.