Some of the data is staggering. Between 2000 and 2010, according to the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association, the number of deaths from breast cancer dropped by 2 percent, prostate cancer by 8 percent and heart disease by 16 percent. Alzheimer’s disease deaths, however, rose by 68 percent. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 5 million Americans. Current Alzheimer research, meanwhile, struggles to find treatments for this debilitating neurodegenerative disorder.
While there is no cure, scientists are continually learning more about Alzheimer’s disease. As recently as July, for example, a team from the University of Maryland School of Public Health published evidence that exercise may be an effective treatment for improving memory and brain function, as reported by Science Daily.
“We found that after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency – basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task,” said Dr. J. Carson Smith, who led the study, according to Science Daily. “No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise.”
Current Alzheimer Research Shows Advances In Behavioral Studies, Pharmacology And Funding
On the pharmaceutical front, current Alzheimer research continues looking for ways to inhibit a particular enzyme (gamma-secretase) from creating a certain protein. The difficulty has been leaving the enzyme free to carry out its beneficial duties, while only preventing it from producing the one protein that damages the brain.
The Alzheimer’s Association, reporting from the its international conference held last month in Boston, noted that Corinne E. Augelli-Szafran, director of the Laboratory for Experimental Alzheimer Drugs (LEAD), says her lab has identified new compounds that may be successful in blocking the enzyme’s production of the damaging proteins, while being far less harmful than previously tested compounds to normal body function.
A key component of current Alzheimer research has less, however, to do with science and everything to do with money. On that front, the White House highlighted the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative in April, including $100 million in the 2014 budget. The primary goal of the initiative is to fund the research for treatments to common brain disorders, primarily Alzheimer’s disease.
Speaking about the initiative at the time, President Obama pointed out, “We can identify galaxies light years away, study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sit between our ears,” according to Bloomberg news. Those millions should help.