In just the last few days I have read a wide range of articles on the new developments in Alzheimer’s research. From supermarket magazine headlines to scholarly journals, they are heralding a major change. So what is all this about? After decades of expensive research trials, the powers that be have decided to redefine the clinical definition of the only major disease without a cure.
Are they starting back at square one? Not exactly. They are redefining the diagnosis by biomarkers not by outward cognitive decline. The diagnosis is not be made on the outward symptoms of severe memory loss and stolen personality and inability to function. It will be based on the actual physical presence in the brain of the plague and tau tangles that do the damage. We are now told that these elements can be present in the the brain 15 to 20 years ahead of overt symptoms. They will be opening up clinical trails for volunteers to find out if these elements are present at an earlier age and then hopefully (?) find the cure that has basically already eluded medical research.
There is something wrong with this picture. Sadly they are now admitting that up to 30% of those in the clinical trails that were supposed to have Alzheimer’s maybe did not actually have the presence of these biomarkers. So millions and millions of dollars have been spent with the wrong subjects? Yet they were still displaying moderate memory problems which could have been due to medication or other medical challenges.
Over the last two years I have cataloged my Memory Lane category: http://waystostay.org/category/memory-lane/ to follow the developments surrounding Alzheimer’s research. One of the more positive trends, if you can call it that, was that people were looking less for that magic pharma bullet but ready to do some real hard work. There have been dozens of articles and pep talks for us old folks on how to be careful about diet, to commit to engaging in regular exercise, to keep it real socially and not shy from the cognitive challenge of learning new things.
In rewriting the rules of the game, how does that effect those already caught in the web of downward dependence and despair. If insurance would cover the CT under more circumstances, two things could happen. The rate of defining those who have/will have would skyrocket. In the face of no viable cure, would that spur people on to add more healthy life styles changes? Would it also allow a different clinical approach for those who have memory loss but no biomarkers? And what about the fact that it has been documented that some people have the tangles etc but no discernible disease.
This reset could take years to redo clinical trials. I am grasping for more immediate positive outcomes. With leading edge of baby boomers cresting towards their mid seventies to join the living longer seniors before us, the waiting room is going to get pretty crowded.