Though no one wants to experience Alzheimer’s disease or witness someone they love experiencing it, it affects millions of people worldwide. There isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s yet, but there are many promising new treatments and therapies being studied. Alzheimer’s research has had a long history that has yielded a series of significant advances over the course of the last few decades. Scientists and advocates are hopeful that further progress isn’t far off. If you want to learn more, read on to find out what goes into researching Alzheimer’s disease.
What goes into Alzheimer’s research?
There are many different organizations, both private and governmental, that support and invest in Alzheimer’s research. In 1974, for example, an act of Congress created the National Institute on Aging (NIA) as a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIA is the federal agency that is primarily responsible for researching the disease. Many private charities, organizations, and nonprofits have also done considerable work toward finding a cure. It’s worth finding an Alzheimer’s foundation to support if you’re interested in the cause, as their contributions have been integral to many discoveries made in recent years.
There have been a lot of advances since the first case of Alzheimer’s was presented in 1906, though significant progress didn’t begin until much later. After it was introduced, research on Alzheimer’s disease slowed for decades. It was in 1968 that researchers developed the first validated measurement scale to assess cognitive decline in older adults. Since then, scientists have identified the chief part of Alzheimer’s brain plaques, as well as the protein that plays a role in the development of tangles, another pathological component of the disease.
Until there is a cure, treatments are mainly focused on slowing disease progression and managing symptoms. Still, there has been significant progress made on that front. There are many clinical trials ongoing, and previous smaller studies on treatments that have shown promise and need further study. Research funding reached an all-time high in 2019, and in 2021, aducanumab became the first FDA-approved therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to atrophy, which results in cell death. It is the most common form of dementia in both the U.S. and around the world. Approximately 5.8 million people in the U.S. live with the disease, and an estimated 60 to 70 percent of people with dementia worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease. There are a number of early warning signs, though the most common is forgetting recent events and conversations. When the disease progresses, those with Alzheimer’s have severe cognitive impairment and are typically unable to carry out basic daily tasks unassisted.
There is still a lot to learn about Alzheimer’s, but it is thought to be caused by improper functioning of proteins in the brain. When the functioning of these neurons is impaired, it can lead to toxic events. Eventually, the damage to the neurons will cause them to die. The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t known, but scientists believe it can be caused by a variety of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex illness that can affect the brain in different ways. Primarily, it causes cognitive and functional abilities to decline. A cure hasn’t been discovered yet, though there are drugs and therapies that have been beneficial for slowing the progression of the disease and managing symptoms for some patients. More money than ever is being invested in research, so many in the community are optimistic about the coming years. Hopefully, this investment will yield tangible results that can improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients.