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Health Affairs Entry Point: The Science Behind Alzheimer’s Disease



April 30th, 2014

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released the 2014 update on its National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, including strategies for identifying and expanding research in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. In the April issue of Health Affairs, senior editor Jonathan Bor reports on the science behind the disease and the implications for future funded research.

In “The Search For Effective Alzheimer’s Therapies: A Work in Progress,” Bor illustrates that in the thirty years since research began on the disease, no one has discovered a cure or effective ways to chronically manage the condition. Regardless, HHS intends to find a suitable treatment by 2025, as outlined in its National Plan, reports Bor.

Even though research suggests a protein is to blame for altering the brain’s make-up and therefore contributing to the onset of Alzheimer’s, there’s disagreement on which protein bears the responsibility. Furthermore, the results of clinical trials aimed at combating the negative effect of protein plaque buildup, have been surprisingly disappointing, says Bor.

Most scientists are looking at intervention strategies before symptoms appear, but according to Reisa Sperling of Harvard Medical School, Bor writes “it’s important to understand that not everyone with plaque buildup develops Alzheimer’s, just as not everyone with high cholesterol suffers a heart attack.”

There are also those who refuse to join the tau and amyloid bandwagon, says Bor. George Perry, editor in chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease “contends that amyloid is part of the body’s natural response to the neuronal damage caused by atoms known as free radicals. Thus, the plaques are not the disease’s cause but a key player in the body’s inflammatory response—its attempt at self-protection.”

In addition to analyzing current research trends, Bor also looks at the role of diet, exercise, and medications in the prevention and treatment of the disease. Read more in the April issue.

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1 Response to “Health Affairs Entry Point: The Science Behind Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. Andrea Says:

    I certainly hope this research yields some concrete information. I have been a nurse for well over 30 years and I work in psychiatry. It seems like the numbers continue to grow versus declining. I am in fear of what is ahead for our aging population if we do not get to the factors that create this serious and ultimately deadly disease. I am feel it is what we eat or what we have been exposed to in our air, our water, or our food and that concerns me even more.

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