A new drug, blood tests and an expert village are among the four things that have given hope in the last four years to those living with Alzheimer’s. And more progress is being made on the way to help all people affected by dementia.
There have been many advances in recent years, four of which are listed below to mark World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, affecting more than 55 million people, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.
The name is a reference to Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, he observed changes in the brain of a woman who had died with symptoms including memory loss and speech problems.
Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told the BBC: “Research is improving the way we detect, prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. of funding pioneering research, supporting brilliant people with bold ideas that have led us to this point. with some Alzheimer’s drugs on the side.”
1. Research on Genetic Modification ‘Leap’ (2022)
A landmark study, released this year, linked 42 new genes to Alzheimer’s disease for the first time.
Scientists from eight countries, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia analyzed the genetic material of 111,000 people with Alzheimer’s.
They identified 75 genes associated with an increased risk of developing the disease, including 42 that had not previously been linked to the condition.
Their findings, published in Nature Genetics, show that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by many factors, including evidence that there is a specific protein involved in inflammation.
Julie Williams, the historian, described the work as “a giant leap forward in our mission to understand Alzheimer’s disease and to develop the necessary drugs to slow and prevent it. disease.”
“The results support our growing understanding that Alzheimer’s disease is a very complex disease, with multiple factors, biological pathways and cell types involved in its development.”
Other studies have shown that lifestyle factors such as smoking and certain foods are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers believe that genetics is the most important factor.
2. Alzheimer’s Town (2020)
A new approach to the treatment and care of Alzheimer’s disease is villages that are specially built for patients to live a normal life, but with the vigilance of caregivers.
France has created a village dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease in 2020, inspired by a “dementia town” in the Netherlands.
It is located in Dax, in the southwest of France, and offers a shop, hair salon and music. It was designed as an old “bastide”, a fortified town typical of the Landes region, to preserve the traditional atmosphere.
The author told the newspaper Le Monde that the village will not have a visible wall, but a safe road, well integrated into the social and cultural life of the city.
Madeleine Elissalde, 82, was one of the first to move.
“It feels like home,” Elissalde said. “We are well taken care of.”
Aurore, Elissalde’s granddaughter, said: “Your memory weighs less.” “He was happy, he found his joy in life again.”
One result of this Alzheimer’s familiarity is that people who live nearby change their views about people living with Alzheimer’s.
A survey of people in the host city of the village was published by the Alzheimer’s Association in August 2022. And it showed a low score on the feeling of disgust for people with Alzheimer’s after the opening of the village, compared to a city without Alzheimer’s village, where the trends remained the same. like.
3. US approves new Alzheimer’s drug in 20 years (2021)
The first new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in about 20 years was approved by US regulators in June 2021.
Aducanumab targets the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, rather than its symptoms.
In March 2019, the global trials of aducanumab, involving 3,000 patients, were completed. A review followed that showed the drug, given as a monthly infusion, was no better at slowing down memory loss and cognitive problems than a placebo.
But after one year, the American manufacturer Biogen evaluated more data and concluded that the drug worked, although it was given in high doses.
The company also says it significantly slows cognitive decline.
However, in December 2021, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) refused to approve it. The EMA said that aducanumab is not effective in treating adults with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
At the time it was approved in the US, some scientists said there was little clinical evidence of benefit, especially when targeting amyloid, a protein that creates clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. .
The new drug is being sold in the US, but there are doubts elsewhere about its effectiveness.
4. Blood tests before Alzheimer’s symptoms appear (2019)
Scientists said in 2019 that they can accurately identify patients with the disease before symptoms appear.
American scientists were able to use blood levels of amyloid to help predict its accumulation in the brain.
Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Missouri, writing in the journal Neurology, measured levels of amyloid beta protein in the blood of 158 adults over the age of 50. . They want to see if the brain scans show the same levels.
Tests show similar levels, but only 88% of the time, they are not accurate enough for a diagnostic test.
When the researchers combined this information with two other risk factors for the disease – people over the age of 65 and people with a genetic variant called APOE4 – the accuracy of blood test at a level of 94%.
The British experts interviewed by the BBC in 2019 said that the results and the work of a blood test to detect Alzheimer’s are promising.
However, medical experts are wary of relying on blood tests at this time.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association of the USA, “Some dementia screening tests are sold directly to consumers.
“For these and other reasons, the Alzheimer’s Association believes that home screening tests cannot and should not be used as a substitute for a proper examination by a qualified physician.”
In summary, a blood test for Alzheimer’s is possible, but a doctor’s diagnosis is important to evaluate the patient’s condition in determining whether symptoms are present.
The Future of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Treatment
According to Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, there are more than 150 drugs in clinical trials for the disease. But the approval process for patient use is long.
“In the future, prevention strategies that combine medication and lifestyle changes may be the best strategy to limit the impact of dementia. Although the New medicine will increase in many years, life changes can happen to all of us.”
Ultimately, reducing your risk by adopting healthy lifestyle habits will help reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
– This text was published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-62979270