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World Alzheimer’s Day: Why a Cure Remains as Elusive as Ever

No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.

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Hi, I’m Nikita. Thanks for sparing a few minutes to read this post.

For most of us, a basic introduction like above is kindergarten stuff. But, for 36 million people worldwide wading through the tangles and plaques in the brain, recalling their name is an elusive challenge.

In fact, every four seconds, one person world over receives the cruel diagnosis of Alzheimer’s – memory evades them and they can’t trust what they remember. They are no longer there and yet they are.

The reach of Alzheimer’s is staggering.

The World Health Organization says, by 2030, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s is set to double and it will triple by 2050.
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Yet, after decades of research worth billions of dollars, Alzheimer’s drugs have a 99.6 percent fail rate in clinical trials.

There is absolutely no medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga in the market which can slow, cure or reverse this devastating neurological nightmare.

The Alzheimer's Cure Pipeline Is Scattered With Mega Expensive Failures

One of the biggest quandaries of neuroscience is grasping the depths of the ageing brain.

From 1988 to 2014, after billions of dollars and intense global research, 124 potential Alzheimer’s drug candidates reached advanced stages of clinical trials and only five got the US FDA’s approval to treat the underlying symptoms of the disease.

Their use is still controversial among doctors because many believe these drugs do not alter the disease progression at all. Despite exorbitantly expensive clinical trials, till date there are no drugs to actually slow down the memory fade. Not one drug has made the cut in market shelves in the last 15 years.

 No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a ticking time bomb. Tangles of amyloid plaques cover the grey matter in the brain, blocking the electrical signals and disrupting the flow of information. The sticky buildup is properly visible in brain scans, yet highly elusive to neurological investigations.

Only to some extent have we been able to understand degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. We know what changes occur in the brain but what brings about these changes remains a mystery. Until we decode the cause, we cannot find a real cure.
Dr Paresh Doshi, director, neurosurgery, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai
0

Research Needs to Get Ahead of the Symptoms

4.1 million people suffer from this disease in India and the number is steadily increasing. We have no treatment plan and none is on the horizon. Even if a wonder drug exists, its effect will never be so obvious. Of course, biomarkers are being developed, but their validity needs to be verified first.
Dr Neeraj Agarwal, neurologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad
 No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s research has left the medical community with more questions than answers.
(Photo Courtesy: Pixabay)

Timing is everything in Alzheimer’s research and treatment. The biggest hurdle is enrolling the right candidates for clinical trials.

In 2015, scientists in America found that people who have just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have had the disease eat away their brain at least 20 years before the symptoms started showing. So, the goal is to get volunteers even before they know they have the disease.

One way is to get high-risk genetically predisposed candidates and test their spinal fluid for two types of proteins – tau and amyloid, both found in the brains of people living with Alzheimer’s. If there is a tiny bit of these in the spinal fluid, it’s very likely the person will go on to develop the disease, but the problem is this test involves hospitalisation, local anesthesia, a needle puncture in the spine (ouch!) and is somewhat risky.

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Lack of Big Data

Lack of data sharing on clinical trial findings because of patents has largely been a pivotal reason for the blind alley in Alzheimer’s research.

Scientists across the world have been working solo, on independent tracks without any large-scale collaboration. Data sharing doesn’t serve the vested interests of big pharmas, the costs can run into millions of dollars.

 No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.

Things have changed in the last couple of years.

Several European countries have taken giant leaps to make patient data open for access. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron claims that with this collaboration, a research centre in England can now access eight times more data than previously available. UK has also seeded $100 million to change the trajectory of this deadly disease by 2025.

The deadline might be a tad unrealistic, but the thought of putting an end to a disease which robs people of their memory, sanity, relationships and life, is comforting, if not very hopeful.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Hi, I’m Nikita. Thanks for sparing a few minutes to read this post.

For most of us, a basic introduction like above is kindergarten stuff. But, for 36 million people worldwide wading through the tangles and plaques in the brain, recalling their name is an elusive challenge.

In fact, every four seconds, one person world over receives the cruel diagnosis of Alzheimer’s – memory evades them and they can’t trust what they remember. They are no longer there and yet they are.

The reach of Alzheimer’s is staggering.

The World Health Organization says, by 2030, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s is set to double and it will triple by 2050.
ADVERTISEMENT

Yet, after decades of research worth billions of dollars, Alzheimer’s drugs have a 99.6 percent fail rate in clinical trials.

There is absolutely no medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga in the market which can slow, cure or reverse this devastating neurological nightmare.

The Alzheimer's Cure Pipeline Is Scattered With Mega Expensive Failures

One of the biggest quandaries of neuroscience is grasping the depths of the ageing brain.

From 1988 to 2014, after billions of dollars and intense global research, 124 potential Alzheimer’s drug candidates reached advanced stages of clinical trials and only five got the US FDA’s approval to treat the underlying symptoms of the disease.

Their use is still controversial among doctors because many believe these drugs do not alter the disease progression at all. Despite exorbitantly expensive clinical trials, till date there are no drugs to actually slow down the memory fade. Not one drug has made the cut in market shelves in the last 15 years.

 No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a ticking time bomb. Tangles of amyloid plaques cover the grey matter in the brain, blocking the electrical signals and disrupting the flow of information. The sticky buildup is properly visible in brain scans, yet highly elusive to neurological investigations.

Only to some extent have we been able to understand degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. We know what changes occur in the brain but what brings about these changes remains a mystery. Until we decode the cause, we cannot find a real cure.
Dr Paresh Doshi, director, neurosurgery, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Research Needs to Get Ahead of the Symptoms

4.1 million people suffer from this disease in India and the number is steadily increasing. We have no treatment plan and none is on the horizon. Even if a wonder drug exists, its effect will never be so obvious. Of course, biomarkers are being developed, but their validity needs to be verified first.
Dr Neeraj Agarwal, neurologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad
 No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s research has left the medical community with more questions than answers.
(Photo Courtesy: Pixabay)

Timing is everything in Alzheimer’s research and treatment. The biggest hurdle is enrolling the right candidates for clinical trials.

In 2015, scientists in America found that people who have just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have had the disease eat away their brain at least 20 years before the symptoms started showing. So, the goal is to get volunteers even before they know they have the disease.

One way is to get high-risk genetically predisposed candidates and test their spinal fluid for two types of proteins – tau and amyloid, both found in the brains of people living with Alzheimer’s. If there is a tiny bit of these in the spinal fluid, it’s very likely the person will go on to develop the disease, but the problem is this test involves hospitalisation, local anesthesia, a needle puncture in the spine (ouch!) and is somewhat risky.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lack of Big Data

Lack of data sharing on clinical trial findings because of patents has largely been a pivotal reason for the blind alley in Alzheimer’s research.

Scientists across the world have been working solo, on independent tracks without any large-scale collaboration. Data sharing doesn’t serve the vested interests of big pharmas, the costs can run into millions of dollars.

 No medicine, no treatment plan, no app, no game, no yoga can cure or reverse the nightmare that is Alzheimer’s.

Things have changed in the last couple of years.

Several European countries have taken giant leaps to make patient data open for access. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron claims that with this collaboration, a research centre in England can now access eight times more data than previously available. UK has also seeded $100 million to change the trajectory of this deadly disease by 2025.

The deadline might be a tad unrealistic, but the thought of putting an end to a disease which robs people of their memory, sanity, relationships and life, is comforting, if not very hopeful.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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