News / Health

Alzheimer's Researchers Switch Focus to Prevention Methods

Alzheimer's Disease Researchers Switch Focus to Prevention Methodsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Melinda Smith
June 05, 2012 11:04 AM
When scientists look back to the first quarter of the 21st century, they may marvel at what was accomplished in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and is reaching global proportions. The World Health Organization says more than 35 million people now live with dementia and that number is projected to double by the year 2030. VOA's Melinda Smith has more.

Alzheimer's Disease Researchers Switch Focus to Prevention Methods

Melinda Smith
When scientists look back to the first quarter of the 21st century, they may marvel at what was accomplished in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's Disease.  Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and is reaching global proportions.  The World Health Organization says more than 35 million people now live with dementia and that number is projected to double by the year 2030.

As people live longer, there is growing pressure to develop a drug or vaccine that stops dementia.  

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says setting priorities and coordinating research now will save time later.

"We've made the first historic investment of funds and a 15 year commitment to prevention and treatment," she said.

In the past, the disease could be diagnosed only by doing an autopsy after the patient died.  

Alzheimer's researcher Ronald Petersen says new methods now can provide evidence while the patient is still alive.

"We use biomarkers, various imaging tests, blood tests, spinal fluid tests that are going to tell us that these are in fact indicators of what the disease is going to be," he stated.

In images provided by the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, you can see the progression of the disease.

Inside the brain of an aging patient, the dark areas are formed by plaques - made up of the amyloid protein - and tangles - composed of another protein called tau. The result is a loss of brain cells and neurons responsible for memory and learning.

During a national summit last month on Alzheimer's research,  two promising clinical trials generated a lot of interest.  In this trial, patients already showing signs of Alzheimer's are given nasal syringes of insulin that push the drug into the neurons of the brain. 

"Nearly three-quarters of participants showed improvement in memory over the four-month period, a 50 percent improvement," said Dr. Suzanne Craft, who is in charge of the study..

But another study may promise earlier treatment to actually prevent the disease.  Two years ago, New York Times reporter Pam Belluck and a photographer traveled to Colombia to visit an extended family afflicted by early onset Alzheimer's.  Approximately one-third carry a genetic mutation that brings on the disease while they in their '30s and '40s.  Belluck says the healthier, older generation, often cares for younger victims. 

"They may be bedridden.  They need to be fed.  They may need to be diapered.  They're also agitated," Belluck spoke with VOA via Skype.

Early next year, a team of American scientists and Colombian doctors will begin a five-year clinical trial of more than 3,000 members of the family. Not all of the patients carry the genetic marker and some will get a placebo.

The head of the American team, Dr. Eric Reiman, says the immunization drug being tested is designed to clear the amyloid quickly from the brain.

"If we intervene sufficiently early before the disease has ravaged the brain, we think these treatments might have their best shot of having a profound effect," he said.

Pam Belluck says the Colombian family members are anxious for something - or someone - to help them.  Facing a grim future, many say they are willing to step forward if it will help them and future generations.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid