Latest Research into Alzheimer's - Facts - Alzheimer's Vaccine
Alzheimer’s Disease isn’t curable and the likelihood of a cure is still a long way off. But that doesn’t mean that the race isn’t on to be the first to achieve that ultimate goal in the field of senile dementia. So what does the latest research have to say?
Millions of dollars are being ploughed into research, particularly since high profile sufferers such as former American president Ronald Regan put the disease and its tragic effects on the world stage. At any one time throughout the world there are hundreds of clinical trials into the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of this baffling disease.
Pharmaceutical companies are developing new treatments every year because of course it’s a huge money making market. And controversial therapies such as stem cell research hit the headlines every so often bringing up the hotly disputed ethical issue of “ending one life to prolong another.”
For anyone who has a degenerative illness such as Alzheimer’s stem cell research has been looked on as a lifeline. It involves collecting cells from foetuses which are then developed to replace the dying cells in a person’s brain.
It’s highly controversial because it involves aborted foetuses and these foetuses die after the stem cells are collected. Currently this research is not licensed on humans and can only be done on animals in controlled laboratories.
Latest Reseach on Alzheimer's has Produced a Vaccine?
One of the most exciting developments is a possible Alzheimer’s vaccine. American scientists claim to have found a way of stimulating the immune system to fight off the amyloid proteins which cause plaques in the brain which in turn lead to the dementia of people with Alzheimer’s.
So far tests have only been done on laboratory mice but the results have been promising and there is hope that human trials will start before 2010. The mice were genetically modified with the introduction of human genes which allowed them to develop the amyloid plaques. Anti amyloid antibodies were then injected into the area of the mouse’s brain which controls learning and memory. Three days later the plaques had disappeared. A month later they had started to reappear but the experimental gene vaccine did show that progression of the disease could be halted or slowed down for a time.
Scientists are also researching the long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Medications such as ibuprofen could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life and current evidence suggests they may actually stop plaques developing in the brain.
And then there are the use of the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone. There are studies which show that women who take hormone replacement therapy appear to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those who don’t. Clinical trials are underway to discover why this is the case and whether HRT could be use as a prevention in the future.
Ways of diagnosing the disease are also being looked at. Currently there is no actual test for Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis is made on the basis of symptoms and behaviour. Improving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer tomography (CT) scanning is a major goal of the manufacturing companies. They are looking at more specific ways their scans can pinpoint minute changes in the brain which may not have shown up before.All these medical advances appear to be a long way off. But the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s patients have improved immeasurably in recent years and many scientists are confident that the next decade will bring new hope to those newly diagnosed with the disease.