In A Decade Alzheimer’s Disease May Be Preventable
Just about 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, a disease that damages the person’s memories and eventually stops their body from performing necessary functions. There is no cure available, and there isn’t much a person can do to stop progression once diagnosed, but a neuroscientist by the name of Joseph Jebelli estimates there will be some medicine to prevent the disease within the next 10 to 20 years.
“[The idea is to push] the disease back, by developing a drug that we can give to someone years before they start experiencing symptoms,” Jebelli explains to The Post. Scientists can use “biomarkers” which are signs of the disease found in spinal fluid and blood, to determine if they need early treatment.
“It will change the course of the disease, pushing it back to the point where not only do they not experience any symptoms, but they’re dying naturally,” Jebelli adds.
The number of Alzheimer’s cases could be largely affected if we were able to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. “If Alzheimer’s could be delayed for only one year, there would be 9 million fewer people with the disease by 2050.” Scientists at USC predict that a five-year delay “would effectively halve the globe’s 46 million [dementia] sufferers, saving health care services approximately $600 billion a year,” Jebelli explains, citing a 2007 study from John Hopkins.
Yes, it sounds trivial, but there hasn’t been much progress in the 111 years since Alzheimer’s was discovered.
Although Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms including memory loss and agitation have been witnessed throughout history, Alzheimer’s wasn’t discovered until 1906, named after Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor in 1910. Alzheimer noticed the same patterns in his aging patients and discovered changes in the patient’s brain tissue.
He wasn’t able to determine the cause of the memory loss, and in the following decades, scientists could not figure out what was causing the brain degeneration.
“It’s a much trickier disease to understand in many ways because, with cancer and infectious diseases, there’s a very obvious target,” notes Jebelli. “But with Alzheimer’s, the brain cells seem just to be withering away.”
Although doctors have made great efforts to diagnose patients with Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, the disease is estimated to be underreported due to the accompanying stigma which is a result of a fear of the disease and the horrible loss of hope once diagnosed.
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