Updated 03/11/2013 10:22 AM
Healthy Living: Research for an Alzheimer's Cure
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Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain's nerve cells. It results in memory loss, thinking and language skills deterioration, and behavioral changes.
"As the disease continues to progress, safety issues become an enormous concern," said Cathy James, the Alzheimer's Association CNY Chapter CEO.
Since age is the biggest factor when it comes to the disease, the number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to triple over the next couple of decades as the baby boomers age. Right now, 1 in 8 people over 65 and half of everyone over 85 have the disease.
"We have five medications that are used in the treatment of the disease. Basically, they're helping with the symptoms. They're not medications that are changing the course of the disease itself," said James.
And that's what researchers have been focusing on for the last few decades. Doctors know that people with the disease have two types abnormal proteins in their brains. There are protein plaques that stick to the outside of the neurons and twisted fibers of proteins that build up inside nerve cells.
"We believe based on cellular models and animal models that these proteins are toxic to the brain. And a lot of direction in drug development is geared towards removing these toxic proteins from the brain," said Dr. William Hu, a Neurologist working on Alzheimer's Research.
Experts say early intervention is crucial when it comes to Alzheimer's. With the current research, they're confident a better therapy will be available to the public within the next five to ten years.
"By the time we start to see symptoms, most likely those changes that are happening in the brain have probably been happening years and maybe even decades before," said James.
Hu added, "The proteins are also measured in the cerebral spinal fluid, and are also trying to detect these on scans so we can diagnose people earlier. It's much more difficult to restore brain cells that have gotten sick than to prevent the cells from getting sick."
Right now, there are hundreds of clinical trials going on all over the country. And researchers say there's a huge need for not only people with the disease, but older adults without symptoms to participate to come up with the most comprehensive treatment.
For more information about Alzheimer's or how to enroll in a clinical trial, check out the link below.