Nov 16, 2017 by Tracy Kelley
November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month, and it’s a good time to take a look at the latest research. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and it affects over 5 million Americans. Researchers estimate that by 2050, that number could rise to 16 million. Research into a cure is on-going, especially with support from the money raised from all the Alzheimer’s Walk for the Cure events, just like the one that caregivers, office staff, and family members from Comfort Keepers participate in every year. See the latest in Alzheimer’s Disease research below.
Research has come far, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. First, scientists have identified brain abnormalities and changes that are hallmarks of the disease, such as plaques, tangles of tau, loss of brain cell connections, and inflammation. Researchers are studying drugs to combat these issues.
Additionally, researchers are also looking into earlier detection methods, such as brain imaging, genetic risk factors, and bio markers for stages of the disease in order to improve detection and start treatments earlier. Similarly, research is on-going into preventing cognitive decline, such as keeping the older brain active. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some research is pointing to a role of the immune system in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
There are currently six drugs used to temporarily combat the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, five of which are currently in use in the U.S. There are other drugs currently in clinical trials that aim to treat the hallmarks of the disease as it progresses. These new drugs are aimed at slowing or stopping the changes the disease causes in the brain altogether. One example is the drug Aducanumab, which targets the plaques that are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Prevention trials are also underway.
According to Bill Thies, the Senior Scientist in Residence with the Alzheimer's Association, the two main obstacles in Alzheimer’s research is finding participants for clinical trials and the need for an increase in federal funding for research. Those looking to make a difference can sign up for clinical trials, raise money, and lobby for funding from the government.