Latimer: Exciting developments in Alzheimer’s research

…estimates suggest we are on the brink of an Alzheimer's epidemic.

In several past columns I have lamented the lack of true, measurable progress in finding a cure or even effective treatments in Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a frightening diagnosis becoming more and more common in our aging population and estimates suggest we are on the brink of an epidemic. According to Alzheimer Society Canada, in 2011 there were 747,000 Canadians living with dementia with numbers expected to rise to 1.4 million by 2031 if nothing changes.

Not only is this disease that steals memory and cognitive function devastating for the individuals and loved ones who experience it, but it represents a looming health care crisis as well. Dementia currently costs $33 billion per year in direct and indirect costs and that number is expected to be $293 billion per year by 2040.

It is imperative we find some way to curb this problem and help the millions of people who will be affected by it in the coming years.Fortunately, there is new hope coming from Stanford University in the US. Studies in mice have found Alzheimer’s can possibly be prevented or even cured by blocking a single protein in the brain.

Researchers discovered that nerve cells die when microglia (cells that work to clear bacteria, viruses and other deposits) stop working properly. Microglia keep inflammation down and also clear amyloid-beta – both known to be problems in Alzheimer’s.

Microglia generally function well in young brains but as we age, a protein called EP2 gets in the way.

When scientists used a drug to block this protein in mice, the microglia could function normally again – reversing memory loss and other Alzheimer related symptoms.

Mice that were genetically modified not to have EP2 did not develop Alzheimer’s at all even when injected with a solution of amyloid-beta – which suggested the microglia were getting rid of the protein naturally.

Of course, these are early days and findings in animal studies do not always translate well to humans. But this research certainly offers an exciting prospect and hope that we could be on the road to developing interventions that can possibly prevent Alzheimer’s from developing and reverse it when it does develop.

If we are able to produce a compound that can achieve this safely and effectively, it will prove to be a major advancement in medical science and could dramatically change the face of healthcare in the coming years.

I am excited to see where this research takes us in the next few years.

 

Just Posted

Kelowna city council reverses itself on pot shop locations downtown

Council now says shops will be allowed on parts of Lawrence and Leon Avenues.

Kelowna RCMP turn to public to identify person of interest

RCMP has released a sketch of the man related to an alleged break and enter

Open burning permitted again in Kamloops Fire Centre

Low fire rating prompts decision throughout Kamloops Fire Centre

Incumbent trustee candidate reassesses SOGI 123 impact

Lee-Ann Tiede says mandated student inclusiveness program has some issues

West Kelowna candidates weigh in on how they’d like to see crime dealt with

This week learn about how your candidates feel about crime in West Kelowna

Weekday weather update

The rain moves in right across the Okanagan-Shuswap valley

Recent jump in U.S. butter imports? All smooth, says Canadian dairy farmers

U.S. farmers recently enjoyed extra access to the Canadian market

Potential replacements for Phoenix pay system to start testing soon: Brison

Testing of prototypes to replace troubled federal pay system will begin within weeks

Nanaimo’s Tilray Inc. briefly the world’s largest cannabis company

The company, only listed in the US, nearly reached $300 in afternoon trading on Wednesday

Woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart released from prison

Smart was 14 years old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by street preacher Brian David Mitchell

New York books editor out after backlash over Jian Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma, who was appointed as editor of the New York Review of Books in late 2017, no longer works for the publication

B.C. couple plans sustainable, zero-waste life in the Shuswap

Plan includes building a tiny house before the snow flies

Housing slowdown forecast to cool B.C. economy

Conference Board says pipeline, trade uncertainty affecting investment

B.C. hockey product eyes shot at Olympic spot with China

Fletcher is one of 24 who travelled to Shenzhen, China for the first official Olympic dev camp.

Most Read