Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a fear most of us over 40-years-old have even if it isn’t on our minds every day. It reminds me of the type of fear I had when I was around six about getting Polio. I didn’t think about it all of the time but there was always an underlying uneasiness.
Today there is urgency in Alzheimer’s disease research; why is that? Here is the past of Alzheimer’s research:
In 1906 Alzheimer’s disease was discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist, in a 53-year-old woman who had stereotypical symptoms and upon Dr. Alzheimer studying her brain tissue it was found that she had what was to become regular physical tissue samples of Alzheimer’s disease and that was globs of sticky proteins and tangled bundles of fibrils within neurons.
From 1910 to 1940 it was believed that Alzheimer’s disease was a normal part of aging. Then during the 1950s the plaques and tangles were studied.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Alzheimer’s disease was identified as an illness separate from aging.
Other key finds in the history of Alzheimer’s research included the discovery that a neurotransmitter necessary for memory identified as acetylcholine drops in those with AD. Further it was found that there were genetic factors involved. Finally an abnormal tau protein was identified.
Starting at the turn of the century additional drugs for the treatment of AD come to the fore and are quickly approved.
Again, why the urgency?
Researchers are always interested in finding the cure for a medical condition as quickly as they can. However with Alzheimer’s disease there is a special urgency.
Another term for Alzheimer’s disease is dementia and it isn’t clearly identifiable. Therefore the numbers are from between 2.4 and 4.4 million people.
Anyone who is aware of the population statistics knows that we are faced with something called the “Baby Boomers Phenomenon.” The age-group 65-years-old and older will “double in size to 72 million” with the next 25 years and the age group that is 85 and older is the fastest growing age group. Of course this is where for the most part Alzheimer’s is occurring.
Current numbers with respect to the cost of the disease are $100 billion changing to $189 billion by the year 2015.
Alzheimer’s disease affects the healthcare system, families and individual lives and it is only going to get dramatically worse the numbers say. That is why there is such urgency to finding out what causes this most dread disease.
I am personally concerned that in the future if we run into a scarcity of funds and materials that Alzheimer’s patients may end up being “warehoused.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects many families it must be well-managed.
“Alzheimer’s Disease: Unraveling the Mystery,” Booklet, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 2008