By Cyd Riede
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. However, drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications – cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda) – to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer's disease. All of these drugs treat the early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells. Doctors sometimes prescribe both types of medications together. Some doctors also prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer's disease.
A quest is under way to find new treatments to stop, slow or even prevent Alzheimer's. Because new drugs take years to produce from concept to market; it is critical that Alzheimer's and related dementias research continue to accelerate.
Many of the new drugs in development aim to modify the disease process itself, by impacting one or more of the many wide-ranging brain changes that Alzheimer's causes. These changes offer potential "targets" for new drugs to stop or slow the progress of the disease. Many researchers believe successful treatment will eventually involve a "cocktail" of medications aimed at several targets, similar to current state-of-the-art treatments for many cancers and AIDS.
The following are examples of promising targets for next-generation drug therapies under investigation in current research studies:
Beta-amyloid is the chief component of plaques, one hallmark Alzheimer's brain abnormality.
Tau protein is the chief component of tangles, the other hallmark brain abnormality.
Inflammation is another key Alzheimer's brain abnormality.
Insulin resistance and the way brain cells process insulin may be linked to Alzheimer's disease.
Gauging treatment impact with brain imaging and biomarkers is a key to future success. In addition to investigating experimental drugs, many clinical trials in progress include various brain imaging studies and testing of blood or spinal fluid. Researchers hope these techniques will one day provide methods to diagnose Alzheimer's disease in its earliest, most treatable stages – possibly even before symptoms appear. Biomarkers may also eventually offer better methods to monitor response to treatment.
Raising Awareness and Supporting Alzheimer’s in Cumberland County
On Saturday, Sept. 7 Alzheimer’s of Tennessee will hold the second Annual Plateau Alzheimer’s Walk. You can participate as an individual or a team/group. Note that all funds raised for this event directly support Alzheimer’s here in Cumberland County. For more information view www.alztnevents.org or call Cyd Riede at 456-2122.