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Treating Alzheimer's Disease

- July 24, 2015
Are scientists close to finding a cure?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
  • More...
Featured Report

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.

Policy and Legislation

Lawmakers want to provide additional federal funding for Alzheimer’s research.

Ongoing Studies

Researchers await long-term results from various trials.

Early 1900sAlzheimer's disease is discovered and named, and diagnostic tools are developed.
1968–1987The Alzheimer's research infrastructure is established, and scientists discover the primary suspected cause of the disease.
1991–1995Food and Drug Administration approves first Alzheimer's treatment, and researchers find more genetic roots of Alzheimer's.
2004-PresentBrain-imaging technology advances, and policymakers create a national plan to fight Alzheimer's.

Are amyloid plaques still the best target for drug therapies?


Michael S. Wolfe
professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.


Bryce Vissel
Head of Neurodegeneration Research Group, Garvan Institute, Sydney, Australia.
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