Fighting Back and Finding Hope in Alzheimer's Identification and Treatments

By Walker, Diane | Aging Today, November/December 2010 | Go to article overview

Fighting Back and Finding Hope in Alzheimer's Identification and Treatments


Walker, Diane, Aging Today


Alzheimer's disease is the country's third most expensive disease, and will cost Medicare and Medicaid an estimated $20 trillion between 20 ro and 2050. However, the federal government invests less than $500 million a year on Alzheimer's research- a fraction of its budget when compared with what it spends on other diseases.

Scientists are still determined to find a way to prevent or cure this degenerative disease. The most active area of Alzheimer's research is in the development of new strategies to diagnose the disease in its early stages, before irreversible brain damage occurs.

THE BIOLOGY BEHIND IT

Today, researchers have a greater understanding of the biology of Alzheimer's disease. Studies conducted by the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Project at the National Institute on Aging have identified biomarkers- indicators of the disease's presence - in the blood, spinal fluid and PET scans of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Biomarkers allow for a more precise diagnosis of the disease, help clinicians identify asymptomatic individuals at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease and test the effectiveness of treatments decades before the first symptoms surface. Recent studies by the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative identified signature levels of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the spinal fluid that appeared to predict whether or not a person would develop Alzheimer's disease within five years. While these newly developed methods of diagnosis give us hope, it may be many years before they are universally accepted and used. …

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