To this day, there is no simple or single test that diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease. However, due to Alzheimer’s research and advances throughout the years, doctors can now almost always determine if a person has dementia, though they may not be able to determine the cause quite yet. What we’ve learned about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia fills several books and many, many pages of the internet these days. Today a person can find out advice on everything from early symptoms, prevention, and dealing with the progression of the disease with just a simple internet search.
We are celebrating that there are just too many advancements in our understanding of Alzheimer’s to include them all in today’s post. However, we did want to share some of the more exciting and more impactful gains in understanding of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Advancements in Alzheimer’s Research
Alzheimer’s research has led to several advances of late including the March 2018 Alzheimer’s research funding signed into law. The $414 million increase for dementia and Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health, as well as Kevin and Avonte’s Law which protects those who wander, are just two of many advancements in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
The more we know about Alzheimer’s, the more proactive we can be in facing Alzheimer’s-related hurdles for loved ones and ourselves. This Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, learn some of the facts and advancements being made in Alzheimer’s research. Here is some of the latest news:
Advance: A change in definition
The Alzheimer’s Association shared that as of April 2018, scientists and the U.S. government propose we change the way we define Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on brain scans rather than symptoms. This definition change is recommended to advance research using brain scans earlier rather than later, increasing chances for treatments sooner. Tests have not yet been validated for this, but if/when they are, many more people will likely be considered to have Alzheimer’s because biological signs may show 15 to 20 years prior to symptoms.
Advance: Lack of sleep increases Alzheimer’s protein
Sleep deprivation may be linked to risk for Alzheimer’s. Scientists found in a study that the protein in the brain which clumps together into plaques in those with Alzheimer’s increased quickly after a night of lost sleep in 20 healthy subjects whose brains were scanned.
Advance: Strides in treatment research
The February 14 Journal of Experimental Medicine reported mice (equivalent in age to middle-age humans) were part of an experiment that mimicked how medicines would target their BACE-1 protein. BACE-1 makes up beta-amyloid plaques which are found in Alzheimer’s patients and prevent nerves from talking to each other. When researchers turned off the BACE-1 genes, the mice lost plaques and their learning and memory improved. There is much more research to be done, but the news is a step in the right direction.
Advance: Alzheimer’s detection with gait-tracking sensor
Newcastle University conducted a pilot study in which subjects wore sensors to track their gait, balance, and mobility. Objective observation of day-to-day activities and prolonged data gathering, rather than one-off assessments, are two strengths for such a tracker. Further research will determine the potential of low-cost, at-home and in-clinic sensors for detecting early stages of Alzheimer’s and its progression.
Advance: Dementia risk doubles following a concussion
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco reported in JAMA Neurology in May of 2018 that the likelihood for dementia more than doubled following a concussion. They tracked one-third of a million veterans to reach this finding.
There are so many more studies being done and trials being run every day. The Alzheimer’s Association is at the forefront of the global fight with initiatives, and pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic clinical trials underway. To learn more and to become involved in some of these initiatives, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association Research Participation page.
Alzheimer’s facts (from Alz.org)
- Americans who have Alzheimer’s is growing. Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s.
- 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s in 2018; 5.5 million of those people are over age 65.
- 1 in 3 seniors passes with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia cost the U.S. $277 billion in 2018.
- 90% of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the past 20 years. Alzheimer’s research advocacy is strong with many ongoing efforts made by various associations.
- There are more than five drugs that may treat Alzheimer’s symptoms, but no cure for the disease yet.
Early diagnosis can:
- Provide medical, emotional, and social benefits
- facilitate participation in vital clinical trials and bring advancements in Alzheimer’s research
- enable individuals to be in control of their legal and financial wishes
- create significant cost savings in medical and long-term care
We hope you have found this blog informative, and that you were able to learn something new to pass along. Please let us know in the comments section what you would still like to learn about Alzheimer’s, as there is so much information out there!