Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and Pennsylvania. It is also the most common cause of premature senility. Alzheimer’s destroys memory and other important mental functions. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease of unknown cause that is the most common form of dementia.
In 2018, Alzheimer’s and other dementias is predicted to cost the nation an estimated $277 billion in medical and care costs. Also, for every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease. Between the years 2000 and 2015, deaths from heart disease have decreased 11 percent, while Alzheimer’s deaths have increased 123 percent. In 2015, there was around 4,000 deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in Pennsylvania. This disease leaves 5.7 million Americans suffering daily with it.
Recently, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute published a journal piece on Feb. 14 revealing their accomplishments. Researchers like Riqiang Yan, Ph.D., were a part of the team who worked at Cleveland Clinic. The researchers found that by deleting the gene that produces an enzyme, BACE1, helps make the beta-amyloid peptides that accumulate abnormally in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s. The only known cause of Alzheimer’s is old age. As of now, researchers are in phase two of the experiment. In some cases, they are in phase three and completing clinical trials for various compounds. They may lead to serious side-effects. The BACE1 inhibitors gradually lower the enzyme levels, reduces neuron loss and can lead to better brain function.
Although they have only experimented on mice and it was successful, researchers are hopeful that it will be successful in humans too. Some researchers do believe that it will be unlikely that the BACE1 inhibitors would totally stop the enzyme production in humans. Researchers have only performed the experiment on mice, so there is no guarantee that the results they received from the mice will be achieved in humans.
“Alzheimer’s affects so many people and with improved methods of researching due to technology, it can help a lot. New appliances in labs have allowed for more specific testing and better conclusions on treatments,” junior Robin Kaufman said.
Standard workup for Alzheimer’s patients includes structural imaging with a CT and MRI scans. Some doctors may also have patients do a PET scan. The most promising areas of research focused on early detection is neuroimaging.
“I think new technology advances can help them get a better look on what is happening, both good and bad. It can also allow them to see how results would work best before trying them on patients,” sophomore Kelsee Goehring said.
Although Alzheimer’s occurs mostly in older people above the age of 60, younger people may be diagnosed with it, but it is less common. One of the first warning signs is mild memory problems that can disrupt everyday activities.
As of right now, Alzheimer’s does not have a cure. The disease cannot be prevented or even slowed down. Treating the disease can be extremely difficult and it can also be a heartbreaking process. This experiment might only be the first step towards realizing an effective treatment, and based upon the early results, it may be worthwhile.