Recently, I attended ‘Life Science Lunch Alzheimer’s cause to cure’ with a fellow netlogx team member, Sarah Harrison. I was surprised by the amount of people who came to listen to James Hendrix, Director of Alzheimer’s Association, and Andy Cothrel, CEO of Redox Reactive Reagents (3R). The conclusions drawn by the panel of experts contained both good and bad news. The good news is that experts believe that there are biomarkers (short for “biological markers”) that could help detect Alzheimer’s before symptoms start in an easy and accurate way. The bad news is that the scientific investment in Alzheimer’s disease is massively underfunded.
The first time I genuinely read about Alzheimer was five years ago as a part of my research for a Cognitive Development lab at Indiana University. At that time, Alzheimer’s was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Today, unfortunately, it is still the 6th leading cause of death and the only disease that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. The scariest part about Alzheimer’s is that the damage to the brain starts a decade or more before memory and other cognitive problems become evident.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 5.3 million Americans of all ages have the disease. There is still no adequate data available to test for earlier diagnosis. The panelist, James Hendrix, made a really good point during the event that people with cardiovascular disease don’t always follow prevention and treatment approaches or begin too late because they consider vascular disease hopeless. Ten or 20 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease was considered part of normal aging and many still think the same. So, people connect Alzheimer’s with hopelessness when there is a lot more to it. It is true that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients will soon forget the “right now”, and they will be unable, for the most part, to remember any new information. This does not mean they will forget everything even as the disease progresses. People with these diagnoses can learn to adapt to the changes like everyone else and live a long life. Human beings are really good at adapting; that’s how we have survived so far.
During the Life Science lunch, James Hendrix mentioned a program called ‘TrialMatch’ that matches individuals with clinical studies being conducted at nearly 700 trials sites across the country. Being a Research Assistant in the past, I understand the need and struggle to find participants for any kind of research studies. Researchers are always looking for healthy volunteers. So, I will greatly encourage everyone to sign up for ‘TrialMatch’ (TrialMatch.alz.org) and participate in any clinical study that is happening near you. Your participation can help change the course of Alzheimer’s disease and improve the lives of all those it affects.
**To learn more about Alzheimer, you can visit Alzheimer’s Association website at alz.org