Monday, July 28, 2014
The July 15, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Shirley S. Wang, Alzheimer's Fight Zeroes in on Preventive Treatments. According to the article, researchers are now focusing on prevention or slowing down memory loss, rather than just treating individuals with the disease. The article reports on the Alzheimer's Association International Conference presentation about a largest prevention study that "found that intervention involving exercise, diet and other behavioral changes significantly improved overall cognitive functioning in patients after two years, compared with patients in a control group." This is only one of a number of studies focusing on prevention, with a variety of ideas being studied. The article references an upcoming announcement regarding a partnership with Novartis, Banner Alzheimer's Institute and the NIH. The article cites to domestic and global statistics.
The article explains the emphasis on prevention
Prevention efforts are receiving more attention and financial backing in the field because of growing recognition in recent years that disease-related changes in the brain begin decades before memory problems become obvious. Treating patients once the symptoms begin may be too late to make a major impact on the disease, as demonstrated by the failure of several highly anticipated experimental treatments in recent years.
Also, a greater ability to measure the progression of the disease in the brain through the use of biological markers, such as the imaging of disease-related proteins, has made it easier to detect the subtle and slow progression of the disease in live humans. Before these biomarker tests, Alzheimer's was diagnosed solely based on clinical symptoms. (It often still is.) Its pathology in the brain could only be examined with autopsy.
However, the studies are challenging because they require following a large number of people for years.
The announcment about the Novartis-Banner study can be found here.