Treating Alzheimer's Disease

July 24, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 27
Are scientists close to finding a cure?
By Alicia Ault

Introduction

Alzheimer's patient Lislott Jacobson, 77 (Getty Images/Aaron Ontiveroz)
Alzheimer's patient Lislott Jacobson, 77, of Sweetwater, Colo., left, with her caregiver, died in April after suffering for years from the degenerative brain disease, which causes gradual memory loss, confusion with time or place and eventually inability to function. Five million Americans are dealing with the disease, which currently has no cure or effective treatment. (Getty Images/Aaron Ontiveroz)

The number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain disease, is projected to more than double by 2050, from 5.3 million today to 13.8 million. At the same time, as Baby Boomers age and medical expenses rise, the cost of treating and caring for people with the disease is expected to rise fivefold to $1.1 trillion. No treatment can yet prevent or cure Alzheimer's. However, advances in brain science and diagnostic technologies are creating breakthroughs unimagined even a few years ago. Rapidly expanding knowledge in genetics, neuroscience, biology and computing is leading to clinical trials on potential new drug therapies, research on how to prevent the disease and new tests to help diagnose it — perhaps even before symptoms appear. Scientists are debating whether the main hypothesis of what causes the disease — a buildup of amyloid protein into plaques that kill nerve cells in the brain — is correct. Patient advocates say federal Alzheimer's research is underfunded, but Congress is clearing the way for more research funds.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Alzheimer's Disease
Jul. 24, 2015  Treating Alzheimer's Disease
Mar. 04, 2011  Treating Alzheimer's
Apr. 04, 2008  Preventing Memory Loss
May 15, 1998  Alzheimer's Disease
Jul. 24, 1992  Alzheimer's Disease
Nov. 11, 1983  Alzheimer's: Mystery Disease of the Elderly
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