The human mind is our greatest asset. It’s packed with more neurons than any other creature on earth; so much so that our brain can only efficiently power between one and fourteen percent of it at any one time.
However, as we age, it can be harder and harder to access the power of its potential. The reasons for this vary, but Alzheimer’s is a major cause of it in our aging population. In fact more than five million americans live with the disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Its effect on the brain is harsh. A trained eye is able to see a number of variable differences in healthy brain tissue as opposed to ones with the disease. Damaged brain tissue contains fewer nerve cells and less synapses than tissue that is healthy. They also show a heavy buildup of plaques. These are abnormal clusters of protein fragments that build up between nerve cells. You can read more on both of these at alz.org.
In the past, the best we could do is help treat symptoms in some people with Alzheimer’s disease. If it were diagnosed early, it could be managed at home. However, there has never been a cure or any kind of treatment available to reverse or halt the disease’s progression. Thanks to medical breakthroughs overseas, help may be on the horizon.
According to a news release from the University of Southampton, inflammation within the brain can drive the development of the disease. The study’s findings suggest that Alzheimer’s could be halted if the inflammation in the brain is reduced.
Additional breakthroughs in the UK have added to the speculation of future treatments. According to researchers at Cambridge, a cancer drug could prevent the disease. In their lab tests, they found that bexarotene, a drug currently used to treat lymphoma, stopped the buildup of plaques in the brain.
The hope through the Cambridge breakthrough is that adults could one day be offered pills to protect against dementia, similar to how patients are currently prescribed medication to prevent heart problems.
If these new developments can help save even a portion of the five million lives that are affected by the disease, it will almost certainly make a dent in the $236 billion that the disease is estimated to cause the U.S. in 2016. It’ll make such a medication a hot commodity, meaning there will be more assets to protect and additional audits to satisfy.
Working together we can all have a hand in changing the future for millions of Americans. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing that any of us can do.