Can Alzheimer’s be cured? A New Discovery Shows Hope

For years, Alzheimer’s has been a disease without a cure. The disease affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans and countless others worldwide, yet a cure has stumped researchers for decades. However, a new, ground-breaking discovery may have just opened the doors to finally find a way to end the disease.

man at doctor

A cure for Alzheimer’s may be close. | AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological disease

In short, Alzheimer’s deteriorates your mental function. It’s a form of dementia, and it causes your brain to lose its ability to think cognitively and respond to its environment. The most obvious symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, but other early signs include difficulty problem solving or managing daily tasks. Someone might forget how to keep their budget in line or how to drive to their favorite restaurant. For some, vision problems can also signal the disease, as well as problems with writing or speaking. People may lose their train of thought while writing or repeat themselves during a conversation.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s

Someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s typically lives about eight years with the disease. However, people can live anywhere from four to 20 years, depending on how quickly their symptoms worsen. Those with an early diagnosis have the best prognosis, and there are several treatments available that can help lessen the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Now, a new development may mean finding a cure

Australian and Chinese research teams worked together to discover a signal pathway in cells that could potentially reverse Alzheimer’s in affected patients. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are caused by the “misfolding” of something called a tau protein, which is inside nerve cells. This misfolding then leads to nerve cell damage, which causes the cell to die. This causes degenerative problems, which is how diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s form.

The research team was able to discover that affected nerve cells of people with these diseases all had something in common: Abnormal signaling in these nerve cells. They believe the complications from the misfolding protein could be the cause. Essentially, these researchers think they’ve narrowed down exactly how these cognitive diseases form in — and eventually kill — humans.

Since researchers believe they’ve found the source of the problem, they experimented by blocking the abnormal signals. It proved to prevent cell damage, and the team was able to use that to create a potential drug to combat the abnormal cells and prevent these degenerative diseases.

Now, the potential drug must start clinical trials. According to news-medical.net, a biotech company in South Australia recently acquired a license that would help them further develop the technology behind a cure. With that license, the research team says it would allow the discovery of a treatment to translate into actual medical tools that can help solidify a cure for degenerative diseases.

But the disease is still a while away from being cured

This new discovery makes a major breakthrough in the effort to find a cure, but it still needs to run through several trials. Most medical trials take anywhere from 10 to 15 years before they can actually be licensed for use. Although there may not be a cure right now for Alzheimer’s, with any luck and a dedicated research team, we could see one in the next decade.

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