5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
And while this takes an incredible toll on both those who have Alzheimer’s as well as their families, there is hope.
As the population lives longer, diseases related to old age have become more pronounced. Alzheimer’s has been one of them.
While it is currently devastating for family members of those who suffer, as well as those who have the disease, several breakthroughs are on the horizon.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the up-and-coming treatments for Alzheimer’s that may help eliminate the disease.
In the future, it may become a disease of the past.
Read on for more information about current Alzheimer research breakthroughs.
Catching It Early On Could Lead to Eradication
Cambridge University’s Professor Michel Goedert has theorized that in the future, Alzheimer’s will become a thing of the past. He has likened it to HIV, the disease that causes AIDS. Twenty years ago, HIV was a near death sentence.
Now, people live long, healthy and productive lives with HIV without it ever developing into AIDS.
Goedert one an EUR 1 million Brain Prize in order to conduct further research into Alzheimer’s.
He hypothesizes that Alzheimer’s is caused by a build-up of amyloid protein in the brain. According to Goedert and his team, other Alzheimer’s research has not yet worked due to the fact that people have been targeting it too late in the game.
He believes that in 10 years, the entire face of Alzheimer’s will have changed, as will the way we treat it. He believes that it will become a condition that you can treat if caught early.
Alzheimer’s Research Breakthrough: It’s All in the Genes
Researchers have known that Alzheimer’s might have a genetic component. But researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco have discovered that not only may that be the case, but the gene might be reversed.
According to lead investigator Dr. Yadong Huang from the University of San Francisco, Alzheimer’s could be a result of the apolipoprotein (APOE) gene.
Researchers have long known that having one copy of the APOE4 gene variant can increase your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by two to three times.
Those who have two copies of the gene have a 12-times greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s.
The APOE gene creates lipoproteins. These lipoproteins help move, as well as keep cholesterol levels stable within the body.
The APOE’s E4 variant seems to show harm to the brain. It has even been correlated with amyloid protein build up in the brain. This means that this research in San Francisco confirms Goedert’s theories, but also delves just one step deeper.
Although previously, the team has been able to create a medication that stops the E4 variant from the build-up of the protein with mice, they haven’t been able to do this with humans. This shows the discrepancies between the mice and human bodies.
But by using stem cell technology, Dr. Huang was able to fix the so-called “faulty gene” so that it did not produce protein build up in the brain.
The APOE4 “structure corrector” forces the gene to look and behave similarly to its “sister gene,” APOE3.
When the gene was fixed, it led to an amelioration of symptoms and created normal cell function.
Triple Receptor Drug
Scientists at Lancaster University accidentally discovered that one side effect to a medication for Type 2 diabetes actually helps people recover from Alzheimer’s.
The drug is known as a “triple receptor” drug and has restored the memory and function for mice who have the same mutation as people with Alzheimer’s.
The mice were given the drug and then participated in mazes to test their memory and functioning. While they performed poorly before taking the drug due to their genetic defect, their performance increased rapidly once they took the medication.
They had increased brain growth factors which help nerve cells function. Their nerve cells were not lost as quickly as those with Alzheimer’s and they had less chronic brain inflammation.
Most importantly, the drug helped reduce the amyloid protein build-up in their brains, which decreases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s.
Although the drug has not yet been released to the public, the staff at Lancaster University believe that it could be superior to other drugs that work similarly.
More tests will be necessary before the team can market the drugs to the public. However, if it is a viable treatment option for Alzheimer’s, it would be the first major medicinal breakthrough in 15 years.
Until now, much of the focus of Alzheimer’s research has been on amyloid proteins. But researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern are now looking at tau proteins. They have a unique role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers believe that they cause clumps in the brain, called neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles then kill neurons, which results in the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
From here, researchers will be looking at ways to tell if a patient has the tau proteins that will begin to create these toxic bundles. They will be looking at ways to stop these proteins from clumping together.
Looking to the Future
Although Alzheimer’s disease is devastating at the moment. New Alzheimer’s research breakthroughs mean that the disease may not continue to take hold. Although it has devastated a generation of older adults, it may one day be a thing of the past. In the future, individuals may not have to think about what to do if their parent or loved one develops Alzheimer’s.
Instead, humans may be able to look forward to their golden years without this looming over their heads.
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