*Originally published in The Galveston County Daily News
By MICHAEL A. SMITH | Posted: Saturday, September 24, 2016 11:00 pm
Many voices are telling us about things we ought to fear.
Some voices we should be listening to are those telling us to fear Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s a dreadful disease because it slowly saps away the parts of people that make them people and leaves behind a diminished being dependent on the care of others. That dreadfulness is compounded by the fact there are no effective preventions or treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s the sort of thing nobody wants to think much about or talk much about because the topic seems so bleak. At the same time, however, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and three times that many — about 16 million — are providing care for Alzheimer’s victims; that’s not counting health care professionals.
It’s a huge and frightening public health issue, but there’s some hope in current research and there are simple ways we all can contribute to the work toward that hope. In a recent article, Dr. Mukaila Raji, a professor and the director of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Division of Geriatric Medicine, said some of that hope is in new classes of anti inflammatory drugs.
“The goal is to develop an anti-inflammatory drug that will stop the inflammation and prevent Alzheimer’s without affecting the renal and gastrointestinal functions,” Raji said.
An experimental drug called Aducanumab could be revolutionary, Raji said.
“What makes this exciting is that the Alzheimer’s patients getting the high trial dose not only have less plaque in their brain scan, but they also have a significant slowing of their memory decline.”
Scientists at Australia’s Flinders University recently published an animal-tested vaccine about which Raji is cautiously optimistic. “This vaccine is unique in that it leads to antibody production that clears not just the plaques but also the tangle-associated proteins,” Raji said.
The ultimate cure will probably be a combined approach.
“I think curative answers will lie in a combination of lifestyle changes, medications and vaccines that target multiple areas,” Raji said.
All of this hopeful news comes from expensive research.
Raji said it is as well as can be:
“The journey to find a cure for Alzheimer’s will require contributions from all of us — scientists, patients and their families, all health care professionals, policymakers and legislators, and a commitment of huge financial and human resources.”
“Each one of us can take a step in this journey by volunteering for clinical studies, by donating to the Alzheimer’s Association and participating in the Bay Area/Galveston County Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Stewart Beach Pavilion in Galveston Island on Saturday, Oct. 8.”
Organizers hope to raise about $143,000 for support, care and research.
On Friday, the effort was just shy of 50 percent of that goal.