Some 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, an incurable demon. And it’s thought that number will climb to 13 million by 2050. It’s time to wage war!
I was perusing time.com recently and came upon a fabulous article, New Research on Understanding Alzheimer’s, written by Alice Park. I’d like to share some of the information; and since it’s well worth the read, I’ll provide a link to the piece at the end.
Statistics tell us a 65-year-old has a 10% risk of falling victim to Alzheimer’s. And with so many baby boomers approaching that very age, Alzheimer’s is gaining more and more attention.
Certainly, the emotional stakes are incredibly high, but so are the financial. In fact, given the baby boomer factor, an additional $627 billion in Alzheimer’s related costs will be added to the Medicare system in fairly short order.
The good news is Alzheimer’s research is ramping-up (though its funding falls well behind cancer and heart disease). As a result, for the first time since Alzheimer’s was identified over 100 years ago, it’s secrets are closer to being revealed.
Currently, the primary treatment target for Alzheimer’s is the buildup of a protein called amyloid, which results in the accumulation of plaque. Plaque is also composed of cellular debris, including dead and dying neurons.
According to researchers, here’s how Alzheimer’s may begin. For still unknown reasons, genetic and otherwise, our brains start cranking out amyloids. And they become molecularly sticky and clump together – forming plaque. When plaque forms, tau proteins break down, leaving the equivalent of potholes that interrupt the electrical signals traveling along neurons.
With the communication flow disrupted, neurons begin to wither and die, leaving behind their tangled remains. That in turn activates the immune system’s inflammatory response, which attempts to remove the debris.
The very unfortunate result of all of this is a brain full of dead and dying neurons. That leads to a shutdown of neural connections. And the bottom-line is a loss of cognitive functioning.
So what are the strategies and weapons of choice in the battle against Alzheimer’s? Well, it’s essential that treatment begins as early as possible. In fact, the very best case scenario would be to intervene before memory loss or cognitive decline occur.
But that’s a bit of a challenge, because how would one, or family members and friends, suspect Alzheimer’s has made the scene if memory and cognition aren’t issues?
Assuming plaque prevention is the treatment of choice, the results to date just aren’t there. In fact, the only thing plaque prevention therapies have produced are devastating side effects.
So work ensues on finding other targets, like the gene, apolipoprotein E (ApoE). It’s significant because it’s involved in the promotion of amyloid. And more work is being done with tau proteins, which we discussed earlier.
Well, I could go on and on here, but that isn’t the mission. What matters most is bringing Alzheimer’s Disease, and its research, to the fore. So much is at stake for each of us as individuals; as well as family members, friends, and society as a whole.
The battle begins!
Please read the time.com piece. Here’s a link.