“I don’t have children.” Your dad says when you tell him who you are.
There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing someone you love deteriorate from the inside. That’s what it’s like living with people who have Alzheimer’s.
And treatments can help, but they’re just putting off the inevitable decline. Thankfully, researchers are working around the clock to find new solutions to slow the disease.
You can learn about the latest Alzheimer’s news in the article below.
How Do We Treat Alzheimer’s Right Now?
Before we look at potential treatments for the future, let’s take a look at what doctors are doing now.
If someone has a mild case of Alzheimer’s, there are drugs they can take called cholinesterase inhibitors. They’re thought to help reduce some symptoms and control behavioral issues.
There isn’t that much we understand about Alzheimer’s in general or how these inhibitors help. All we know is that acetylcholine is a brain chemical scientists think is related to memory.
When you decrease the amount of cholinesterase (the drug) it slows the break down of acetylcholine. But this isn’t a long-term fix. The brain builds up a tolerance and these drugs will stop working eventually.
When you’re past the mild stage of Alzheimer’s, the doctors are no longer trying to preserve memories. They’re trying to preserve the patient’s way of life.
Drugs for this stage of the disease are more about treating symptoms and putting off the inevitable need for full-time care. Drugs in this stage work by controlling glutamate. Those with Alzheimer’s disease have more glutamate than others.
That excess causes brain cells to die off more quickly than when the chemical is at normal levels.
If the drugs from the mild-stage treatment are still working, or the person wasn’t medicated with them previously, cholinesterase inhibitors can work alongside glutamate controlling medications.
The treatment for severe cases of the disease is usually a combination of what’s worked in the past. If the patient has built up a tolerance to one drug, the doctor may switch to another similar version – that’s just different enough to work.
Otherwise, the severe stage of Alzheimer’s is about setting up around-the-clock treatment. Well-progressed patients will need help going to the bathroom and feeding themselves.
Alzheimer’s gets worse with time, as do other health issues. The patients will be treated for any coexisting health conditions alongside their Alzheimers drugs if they’re taking any.
The Latest Alzheimer’s News
There was a big surge of hope at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association Internation Conference in Chicago. The medical community gathered to learn more about a drug they’d heard whispers about.
That drug is a beta-amyloid blocker, called BAN2401. The drug works by blocking or reducing the buildup of beta-amyloid protein. The protein exists and is normal in non-diseased brains but builds up more on the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
It’s a plaque like protein substance that kind of cakes itself onto healthy brain cells. Non-diseased brains have an enzyme, called alpha-secretase that breaks beta amylase down.
People with Alzheimer’s don’t have as much alpha-secretase and eventually, the brain forgets how to use the little it does have. So, Beta-Amylase builds up and never gets disposed of.
The new drug fixes that – at least temporarily. It has a very hopeful and high rate of B.A. reduction, at about 93%.
In an eighteen month long study, the researchers behind BAN2401 found that patients who’d been taking the drug had 93% less BA build up than the participants who took a placebo pill.
Along with the brain scan results – those who took the new drug had less cognitive decline than the others when tested with standard evaluations.
This drug is the first of its kind. No other medications for Alzheimer’s have shown such intense and quick results. But it’s not yet approved for use in the US.
It will have to go under rigorous testing by the FDA after the researchers release the final product.
Tau Protein Treatments
Another trademark brain-structure or brain-chemical symptom of Alzheimer’s is neurofibrillary tangles. This is when the nerve cells of the brain get tangled and twisted up, literally.
Those twists and turns stop communication from one nerve cell to another. Much like having a kink in a water hose. The hope for these tangles is in structures called microtubules.
They’re made from the protein tau, which helps the microtubules stay strong and continue delivering information, even through a tangle.
By providing the brain access to more or more consistent amounts of tau protein, we can stave off microtubule collapse. At least for a little while.
Some researchers are testing out anti-inflammatory chemicals on Alzheimer’s to see if they can “calm” the brain. If the brain stays “calm” we can slow the development of things like the tangles discussed above.
These drugs are still in deep developmental stages but include things like probucol and telmisartan.
One of the biggest problems, physically, when it comes to Alzheimer’s is the miscommunication of the nervous system in the body.
For whatever reason (tangles, plaque, decay) the brain nervous system cells don’t communicate with the rest of the body.
To wake up those nerves, scientists are looking into the practice of electroacupuncture. This is a perfectly safe practice where very low pulses of electricity go into the body via small needles.
It’s also helpful for treating injuries.
Unfortunately, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about the disease. But the good latest Alzheimer’s news is that we’re starting to find the common links – like having too much Beta Amylase.
To help researchers find more cures and treatments, you can donate to the foundation here.
After you get done donating to the cause, learn more about what kind of facility your loved one with Alzheimer’s needs here.