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New Hope for Treating Alzheimer’s

By Shlomo Maital

   I have a very personal interest in Alzheimer’s and in general age-related dementia, for two reasons. First, my own age: At 74, I am moving into the dementia-prone zone. Second, family – like nearly everyone, I have known people who suffered and are suffering from it.

   Here are some facts about Alzheimer’s:

     One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.  

These figures apply equally to all societies that are aging, which is essentially all countries in the West, and even China.

   Today’s New York Times has an Op-Ed by Pagan Kennedy, about new breakthroughs in Alzheimer research, disastrously underfunded (8,000 research papers every day are published on cancer! Frankly, the results are meager).

     For years, researchers asked, how can we stop or dissolve the amyloid plaque that gums up the brain’s neurons and brings on dementia?   That proved ineffective. Now, they are redefining the question (that is always a good approach when you cannot solve a problem): How come many older people die with their brains gummed up with amyloids, yet they show no sign of dementia?????

   Answer: Must be the immune system. The body has proteins generated by the immune system that protect neurons from being damaged by those amyloids. Sometimes they are effective. Sometimes they are not. Why?  

     Initial results are promising. I wish they had framed this question much earlier. And I’m proud that Israeli researchers appear to be leading the way in this new avenue of research.  A leading researcher in the US, Dr. Liddelow, at New York University, reports the new focus “will lead to a rapid production of effective treatments”.

     I am hopeful that this is true. This, for me, is personal. I and those I love might well need it. So press on, Dr. Liddelow!

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Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
October 2017
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