An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is a devastating blow, one that requires immediate action to ensure the financial resources built over a lifetime can sustain a person through this progressive and fatal disease.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. With more than 5 million Americans now living with the disease today, that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. That doesn’t even take into account the nearly 11 million people who care for a loved one with the disease. If current trends continue, Alzheimer’s will bankrupt families, communities and our healthcare system.
Over the last three years, medical science has seen some advancement in the likely causes and possible new treatments of this devastating disease. As New Year approaches, I thought it was time to look at how far we have traveled in our journey to end Alzheimer’s disease.
While we have known for quite some time that the likely cause of the disease was a plaque buildup in the brain, scientists at the Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered an immune system gene associated with higher rates of amyloid plaque buildup in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and older adults at risk for the disease. "These findings suggest that targeting the IL1RAP [a specific gene pathway]… may be a viable approach for promoting the clearance of amyloid deposits and fighting an important cause of progression in Alzheimer's disease," said Andrew Saykin, Psy.D., director of the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center and the national Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Genetics Core.
In the meantime, scientists at the Australian National University have discovered 9 specific genes that play a significant role in the development of the disease. "If you can work out how to decelerate the disease, then you can have a profound impact," said Associate Professor Arcos-Burgos, a medical geneticist at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at ANU. "I think it will be more successful to delay the onset of the disease than to prevent it completely. Even if we delay the onset by on average one year, that will mean nine million fewer people have the disease in 2050."
References: Daily Science (October 5, 2015) “Newfound gene linked to amyloid beta plaque buildup in Alzheimer's disease” Daily Science (December 1, 2015) “Scientists isolate genes that delay Alzheimer's”