Over the weekend I had the incredible opportunity to listen to local researchers sharing their groundbreaking studies on Alzheimer’s disease related issues. Once again I beamed with joy hearing how much work is happening right here in our own backyard. And although I do my best to stay on top of developments as they happen, several comments nearly took my breath away, in a good way.
Unfortunately, the statistics continue to get worse as our aging population grows larger and the number of people affected by this disease not only as patients but also the caregivers who serve them is overwhelming.
In the United States alone, 5.3 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and it’s estimated that by 2025 the number will reach 7.1 million and by 2050 13.8 million. Globally there are approximately 46 million people currently living with Alzheimer’s, with an estimated impact of 75 million by 2030. This costs the American economy alone about $214 billion dollars a year.
The good news is that recent increases in awareness and funding may finally start to give real hope to the epidemic. Below are my top 3 takeaways plus 7 reasons the researchers themselves reported feeling more optimistic than ever.
My Top Takeaways
- New technology called amyloid PET scanners are enabling researchers to actually see amyloid plaque formation in the brain, which means that they can more clearly see what’s really working.
- Soon we will all have access to our unique genome sequence in the palm of our hands, which means that our doctors will be able to assess and proactively treat our specific genetic makeup in a more targeted way.
- Scientists are talking to each other more than ever, which means that true collaboration could lead to treatment at a much more rapid pace.
Why the Researchers are Hopeful
- Like me, the majority of the panel commented on the truly collaborative nature of the scientists in the room (although perhaps not quite as positive about the frequency of sharing scientific developments in general).
- There is no alternative. We have to remain hopeful, as the only other option is to face the reality of this horrible disease.
- Funding and attention is greater than ever (although everyone would love to see more!)
- Imaging tools are making it easier to see what really works.
- The commitment of the public has shown to be a driver in the race to find a cure for diseases in the past.
- There are more efforts being made to translate findings from the lab.
- We’ve come a long way baby. According to one of the pioneers in the room, Rusty Gage of the Salk Institute, in his 30-year career in the field he’s able to compare where we are now with where we’ve been and the future looks bright.