Like the disease itself, the answer is complicated. For any disease the first step in finding a cure is pinpointing the cause. In this respect, Alzheimer’s researchers believe they are making progress.
Experts have long believed that Alzheimer’s is caused by the brain producing too much of a natural protein called beta amyloid. But recent findings suggest the problem may not be over-production but rather the inability of the brain to properly dispose of this protein. One study likens it to a “clogged drain.” Researchers are now refocusing efforts on ways to speed up the disposal process.
On another front, scientists are also testing ways to better identify who is at risk for Alzheimer’s. Current screening methods including spinal taps and brain scans are not only costly but impractical for large populations. An experimental technique which many believe still holds promise is a blood test to detect beta amyloid.
Obviously no cure will come until the precise cause can be determined. To date, efforts to develop medications to slow production or rid the brain of excess amyloid have been unsuccessful.
Doug Stark, President, ComfortCare Homes Wichita (This article featured in the Wichita Eagle, July 22, 2011)