According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. And the number of people with the disease will increase each year as the proportion of the U.S. population over age 65 continues to grow—and it’s predicated it will escalate rapidly as the baby boom generation ages.
Now for some potentially good news.
“Scientists have selected three different types of Alzheimer’s drugs to be tested in the first large-scale international attempt to prevent the disease in people who are otherwise doomed to get it,” reports The New York Times.
The Times explains that, “Most of the test subjects will have no symptoms . . . but they would be expected to start showing signs of problems with memory and thinking within five years unless the drugs work. The hope is that by intervening early, the disease might be headed off. Another study starting next year involves an extended family in Colombia that shares the same mutation. Anyone who inherits that mutated gene gets Alzheimer’s disease. A third study will involve people in the United States age 70 and older who seem perfectly healthy and who do not have any known Alzheimer’s mutations but in whom, brain scans show, the disease is starting to manifest itself.”
Dr. Randall Bateman, the study’s principal investigator, is also been part of a group of scientists that Washington University in St. Louis says has “assembled the most detailed chronology to date of the human brain’s long, slow slide into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease . . . As part of an international research partnership known as the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN), scientists at Washington University and elsewhere evaluated a variety of pre-symptomatic markers of Alzheimer’s disease in 128 subjects from families genetically predisposed to develop the disorder.”
“Using medical histories of the subjects’ parents to estimate the age of the onset of symptoms for the study participants, the scientists assembled a timeline of changes in the brain leading to the memory loss and cognitive decline that characterizes Alzheimer’s. The earliest of these changes, a drop in spinal fluid levels of the key ingredient of Alzheimer’s brain plaques, can be detected 25 years before the anticipated age of onset.”
That’s a dramatic finding that highlights why the results of these new drug trials could be so significant.
Of course, any potential new drug that can be proven to stave off Alzheimer’s is bound to come with a high price tag. The Times observed that, “If any of the drugs come to market, they will be expensive, which raises issues of how patients will ever be able to pay for them. Researchers said they would face that issue when they come to it.”
To which I say, “Exactly.” Hope, and a little positive thinking, is the name of the game here people.
Do you think scientists will be able to develop drugs that can halt the onset of Alzheimer’s?
Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com
- Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia