According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans currently are living with Alzheimer’s. And, the organization notes, “as the number of older Americans grows rapidly, so too will the number of new and existing cases of Alzheimer’s.” Those with Alzheimer’s disease—and those with loved ones living with the disease—know that progress in detection and treatment has been steady but slow.
The disease’s prevalence in this country, and others, does mean that a significant percentage of research dollars and scientific expertise is being applied in the lab as scientists work to understand what causes the disease, how best to detect it, and how to effectively treat it.
Current methods of detection and treatment
To date, the disease is diagnosed through a series of cognitive tests administered by a doctor. And treatments include several drugs, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in people with Alzheimer’s, that may manage behavioral symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
- Learn more about detecting Alzheimer’s: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-alzheimers-disease-diagnosed
- Learn more about treating Alzheimer’s https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-alzheimers-disease-treated
Research: diagnosing the disease
Many cognitive specialists and researchers believe the key to successfully treating Alzheimer’s is through early diagnosis. To that end, several studies are looking at ways to detect the disease before symptoms—which may be irreversible—appear.
One study, at St. Louis’ own Washington University School of Medicine, has found a biomarker that appears in the earliest stages of the disease, called the amyloid stage, which can last 20 years or more before cognitive changes appear. If a test can be developed to detect this biomarker, it can signal the potential for the disease, thus identifying an opportunity to begin treatment to either stop the disease from developing or prevent symptoms from occurring.
- Learn more about this study: https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/novel-form-of-alzheimers-protein-found-in-spinal-fluid-indicates-stage-of-the-disease/
Research: Treating the disease
Mayo Clinic has compiled a list of some of the current research projects aimed at finding treatments for the disease. A brief description of a few of these studies follows.
- One study is looking at ways to use drugs called monoclonal antibodies to prevent beta-amyloid protein, an essential brain protein that, later in life, can become sticky and cause clumps that disrupt brain function. One such drug, called solanezumab, did not benefit people with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease, but the hope is that it may be effective in the preclinical stage before symptoms appear.
- Another study, again looking at beta-amyloid protein, is examining the relationship between this protein and another protein called Fyn. When these two proteins combine, Fyn becomes over-active, a condition that causes the connections between the brain’s synapses to destruct. A cancer treatment, called saracatinib, has turned off Fyn in mice, allowing synapses to begin working again. Researchers have begun human trials for this drug to see if it can be effectively used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
- Because Alzheimer’s causes inflammation in brain cells, researchers are looking at ways to treat this inflammation. One study, of a drug called sargramostim, is studying its ability to stimulate the immune system to protect the brain from harmful proteins.
If you’d like to read more of the Mayo Clinic’s report, visit: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-treatments/art-20047780?p=1
Our standard of care
Parc Provence is committed to providing the best care available for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Our medical staff and support team are leaders in their fields, offering compassionate and evidence-based care for our residents. All of us work to support your loved one to live the best life possible each day. And, as always, we’re here to answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to call.