Did you know that more than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease? If that number doesn’t shock you enough, this one might: by 2050, the Alzheimer’s Association projects that number to skyrocket to nearly 14 million.
As November comes to an end and we reflect upon Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, it’s important that we recognize the progress that’s been made over the years. While it’s true there is no “silver-bullet” cure for this debilitating disease, researchers have 92 new potential medicines in development – 18 of which are in Phase III clinical trials.
Just last week, this progress was showcased in a report published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy highlighting promising results for a vaccine that could help extend lives by preventing Alzheimer’s from developing. The testing has only been conducted in animals, but researchers are hopeful the vaccine will be tested in human trials soon. Here’s how it works:
The vaccine [prompts] the body to produce antibodies inhibiting the buildup of amyloid and tau, two proteins that are hallmarks of the degenerative brain disease. [It] is one of several promising treatments aimed at reducing the buildup of those substances before they become deadly plaques and tangles in the brain, USA Today explains.
Doris Lambracht-Washington, the study’s senior author and a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, is encouraged by the data. As she noted:
“If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for the patients and their families. … The number of dementia cases could drop by half.”
As it stands, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. However, with Congress’ support through increased NIH research funding and the passage of legislation like 21st Century Cures and PDUFA, the research community is better equipped to develop medicines that can make a difference in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.