New research for a cure for dementia has intensified over the years. We can probably safely say that it is now in a race against time. With no cure in sight, the baby-boomers maybe standing on a slippery slope. For millions of us, it is a wait-and-see situation. For some of us it is wait-and-see if we acquire it, and for others, it is wait-and-see if a cure will come. The number one question on most minds today is probably: Are we any closer to a cure? Before we attempt to answer this question we should take a look at the following:
Research for a cure for dementia has been going on for more than a hundred years. Alzheimer’s was discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases. Since the discovery of Alzheimer’s disease in 1906 scientists across the world are working hard trying to find a cure or a way to prevent or delay this devastating condition. Dementia is characterized by memory and behavior problems. It is a progressive disease that starts out with mild memory problems.
Currently, there are approximately 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the US. Without a cure or prevention, this number is expected to climb to about 16 million by the year 2050. The worldwide figures are similar. Despite slight variations in totals, from one organization to the other, the conclusion is the same. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds. There were an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015 and, without a cure, this number is expected to grow to 131.5 million by 2050.
Alzheimer’s is believed to be responsible for more than half a million deaths in the US each year. It has made it is way into the top 10 list of causes of death in the US, currently sitting at number 6. According to Heather Snyder, Ph.D., director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, “as the 6th leading cause of death, Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death in the top 10 that we currently do not have a way to prevent or stop or slow it is progression”
With no cure, or no prevention, combined with an aging population, the world should be expecting an explosion of new cases of dementia but some studies have suggested otherwise. According to Mary Brophy Marcus, in a January 10, 2016, CBS report, new research suggests that the rate of new dementia cases may be declining partly due to the progress made in heart health and vascular care. The findings are from an analysis of data from a long-running Framingham Heart Study. These findings suggest that earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of stroke and heart disease might have contributed to a lower incident of dementia, particularly vascular dementia.
“Much research is being done on dementia in order to help doctors better understand, diagnose, and treat the disease. Some research involves the search for additional genes that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. Other studies are being conducted to see if insulin resistance plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s,” the author from HS eMedTV, Alzheimer’s channel wrote.
Also included in the research on dementia prevention and causes are:
“While devastating at any age, dementia is particularly overwhelming when it strikes those in their 50s, 40s or even 30s, with families, financial obligations and careers in full swing,” writes Lori Alton, staff writer at Naturalhealth365.
Is early onset dementia on the rise? Early onset dementia is usually associated with Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, alcoholism, or brain infections but are there some other not-yet-discovered causes hiding in the shadows? Some researchers are hinting of a silent epidemic and are looking closely at environmental factors as a primary cause. When it comes to environmental factors, the possibilities are endless. It is believed that as many as 200,000 people, in the US are living with early onset dementia.
As mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death in the US, in the top 10 list, that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. The only way to change this maybe through research. The cost of research on an annual basis can be staggering. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is expected to spend $2.3 billion on Alzheimer’s research in 2019 alone. Federal and state governments provide a portion of the funding. Funding for dementia research has become a major concern for federal and state officials, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, for every $100.00 the NIH spends on Alzheimer’s and dementia research, Medicare and Medicaid spend $9,700 caring for people with Alzheimer’s. Additional resources are being invested through state grants and appropriations. Private donations and various fund-raisers make up a portion of research funding. Funding for dementia research remains low in comparison with funding for cancer
Because of the complexity of dementia, the many intricate parts, and the multiple causes, there will be no one size fits all solution. Over the years, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved some treatments for dementia, but we are still without a cure. Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine are currently used to treat the memory and thinking problems, but these drugs are just addressing the symptoms
“Many researchers believe the successful treatment will eventually involve a cocktail of medications aimed at several targets, similar to current state-of-the-art treatments for many cancers and AIDS,” said Heather Snyder PhD
In the last 20 years, researchers have discovered what role the beta-amyloid and tau proteins play in Alzheimer’s. We have also seen the FDA approval of the first Alzheimer’s drug and the first potential blood test. Trials on a vaccine in 2001 were halted due to participants developing dangerous complications, but researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have developed a vaccine that they are confident will protect the brain against Alzheimer’s. Human trials are not yet on the way.
Will this vaccine be of any help to the people already afflicted by this dreadful illness?
Whiteman, H. (2019). Alzheimer’s disease: are we close to finding a cure? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/281331.php
Early onset dementia is on the rise | NaturalHealth365. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.naturalhealth365.com/early-onset-dementia-1884.html
Clinaero, I. (2019). Dementia Research. Retrieved from http://alzheimers.emedtv.com/dementia/dementia-research.html
Clinaero, I. (2019). Basic Information on Dementia. Retrieved from http://alzheimers.emedtv.com/dementia/dementia-p2.html
New study shows signs of hope against dementia. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dementia-alzheimers-risk-signs-of-hope-study/