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Archive for Saturday, June 9, 2001

Search continues for Alzheimer’s treatment

June 9, 2001

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If Alois Alzheimer were alive, he'd be 137 years old and a candidate for the disease named after him.

Alzheimer was the first to identify the brain disease that affects almost half of those who live to age 85.

Two kinds of changes come with Alzheimer's. Extra deposits of protein around brain cells cause plaques to form, and protein changes inside the cells cause tangles.

The brain shrinks, memory dims and frustration flares for patient and family alike.

The Higuchi Biosciences Center and the Drug Information Center at Kansas University say researchers there are looking for ways to prevent the death of brain cells in Alzheimer's patients, but so far there is no cure for the disease. Drug therapy only slows it.

A key player in Alzheimer's is an enzyme that breaks down a brain chemical important to memory and learning. The Alzheimer's drugs that do exist slow that enzyme.

So far, the FDA has approved three enzyme-crippling drugs for Alzheimer's. Sadly enough, all they offer is an extra year to three years of productive life outside the nursing home.

More answers are needed to treat a disease that, according to U.S. Census projections, could affect 31 million Americans by the year 2050.

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