Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. My family has been its victim and has experienced the heartbreak. There are currently over 46 million people worldwide who have been diagnosed with dementia. That number is expected to be over 131 million by 2050. Experts are describing this widespread disease as a world tsunami. There is a new case every 3 seconds.
A definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s currently can only be made after death. The diagnosis is based on the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain. It’s a puzzle. Everyone with Alzheimer’s has amyloid, but not everyone with amyloid has Alzheimer’s.
What are we doing to combat the growing number of dementia cases each day? Should I be worried with a family history? What treatment could I expect? Since 2000, there have been 244 drugs tested and only 1 has been approved. The approved drug is aimed at decreasing the amount of developing amyloid plaques. But who will develop Alzheimer’s from the plaques and who will not? And who would be helped from drug therapy? Current results show available drugs have not improved the memory and cognitive function of people already in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.
But there could be hope. Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine is testing on humans LM11A-32, a drug to eliminate the amyloid plaques. Frank Long, MD, Chairman of the department of neurology developing the drug has taken a different approach. His attack is to keep the brain cells healthy. It would be easier to develop a possible preventative instead of trying to eliminate the amyloid once it develops. LM11A-31, also known as C31, is not designed to wipe away amyloid plaques, but instead to strengthen the current brain cells enabling them to ward off any neurological bad guys.
Longo’s research has determined the best way to fight these amyloid plaques is to regenerate and preserve the connections within the brain cells. He has defined 14 signals that can be passed between the brain cells in the presence of amyloid, and C31 can halt 10 of them. By stopping those harmful signals early, the plaques are not able to continue building and the brain can stay healthier longer. There is also hope that those patients already diagnosed with damaged cells can recuperate, but those studies have not yet concluded. The bottom line is that because Alzheimer’s start decades before the symptoms are visible, the treatment needs to start early too.
So, the possibility of a risk assessment for Alzheimer’s is most likely right around the corner. Why is this important to me? If this drug were available now I would be willing to take it. My family history is strong on the maternal side of the family. We also have a strong family history of cancer, but I would take my chances with the cancer before I would surrender to Alzheimer’s. I want my family to be able to “Remember Me” as a healthy old woman, not one who succumbed to Alzheimer’s because there was no treatment. If I could start it now I would. Earlier treatment equals more effective results. This research has given me a more optimistic outlook for the future.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. The theme this year from the Alzheimer’s Disease International organization is “Remember Me”. Find out more information on their website http://www.alz.co.uk/. And look for more information from the US Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alzorg.
Written by: Dawn McNeil, MSM, RT(R) (M), RDMS, RVT, CRA, FASRT