Discovering a Cure for the Sixth Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and research and development for detecting and treating the disease is improving. It’s a sad statistic that every 67 seconds today—and every 33 seconds by 2030—someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. 5.2 million Americans are already affected. The degenerative disease is the most common form of dementia and has no known treatment.
Another complication is that scientists aren’t entirely certain about its cause, making the disease more terrifying—especially for those over 65 of which every 1 in 9 is diagnosed. Several early tests that would identify and treat Alzheimer’s disease have been introduced this year. The most recent development is a blood test that could soon detect and treat the disease up to 10 years before symptoms appear.
While the test still requires replication, validation and a larger, long-term study, it has tested with 100% accuracy. The test examines the brain’s insulin resistance, an indicator of the disease, and the blood levels of insulin receptor IRS-1. Researchers claim that the blood levels of this receptor might be capable of detecting Alzheimer’s up to a decade before clinical diagnosis. “This study shows that insulin resistance is a major central nervous system metabolic abnormality in AD that contributes to neural cell damage,” said Dr. Ed Goetzl in a press release issued by NanoSomiX, a study sponsor.
The test was presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C. in November 2014. NanoSomiX has hopes to eventually produce a commercial version of the test. Additional Outcomes In early 2014, another potential test was announced that predicts dementia with 90% accuracy up to three years before symptoms appear by measuring fats in the bloodstream.
A similar test that measures proteins identifies the disease with 87% accuracy within one year of its onset. So the optimistic view is that treatment of the disease is almost within reach. Dr. Sam Gandy, M.D., PhD, Director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and his team have developed a drug called BC1838 that aims to reverse Alzheimer’s by forming new brain cells.
The National Institute on Aging is soon recruiting patients to test the drug in a phase one clinical trial. Dr. Dale Bredesen, a University of California professor of neurology, takes a more natural approach with the development of a customized program that promotes lifestyle changes and supplements. The program involves 36 components from fish oil and vitamin D to hormone therapy.
Dr. Bredesen reports that the program has had success in in reversing memory problems present in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Other experts find the results intriguing but consider the program in its early stages and advocate for longer and larger scale research.