Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, an author of a new book said last week.

"It ("The Inheritance") follows a family from North Dakota and Wyoming who carry a genetic mutation that guarantees Alzheimer's disease, and they've dedicated themselves to research in hopes of finding a cure," Niki Kapsambelis said after she spoke at the Natrona County Public Library.

She was accompanied by Steve McIntyre whose wife Lori DeMoe died of the disease in her 50s, and their daughter Robin.

Some of the DeMoe family lives in Laramie.

And Robin vowed she would be the first person to be cured of Alzheimer's.

Kapsambelis met members of the large DeMoe family during a freelance story she was reporting when they were in Pittsburgh for a treatment session.

That was her "Alice in Wonderland" moment that consumed her for five years that resulted in "The Inheritance," she said.

Kapsambelis tracked how the family coped, and the long slog of some research scientists to better understand the disease, she said. "We stand closer to a cure than ever before."

Despite its growing prevalence, relatively little money is allocated to research it compared to cancer and HIV/AIDS, she said.

She urged people to educate themselves about the disease, work with the Alzheimer's Association and the AARP, and talk with lawmakers and persuade them to allocate funding for research.

The disease, marked by a breakdown in brain tissue, is a leading cause of dementia with symptoms of memory loss, difficulty with simple tasks, mood swings and poor coordination.

It affects one in eight people over 65.

"I thought it was important that people understand what an epidemic Alzheimer's really is, and that there are people trying to find a cure for it, Kapsambelis said.

On a personal level, she said it's easy to look at Alzheimer's as hopeless as people watch their loved ones lose touch with reality.

"It's not hopeless unless you allow it to be," Kapsambelis said. It is obviously a formidable enemy, and the only way that you can attack it is to go in head on and dedicate yourself the way this family has, and they're leading the way."