Ling Li is taking Alzheimer’s disease research in a new direction.
Recently, Scientific American took a minute to feature her preliminary research into a novel approach to Alzheimer’s drug development.
Of the many spectacular inventions of the 1900s, it’s safe to say we never may have made it to where we are today without radar, plastics or the once-revolutionary vacuum tube triode (responsible, in case you’re wondering, for launching the age of electronics).
Medical advances made throughout the 20th century, too, are nothing to bat an eye at.
How we Die: Comparing causes of death in 1900 v. 2010. In 1900’s, 53% died from infectious disease, today only 3% pic.twitter.com/gKPLcnAHQo
— Avi Roy (@agingroy) June 8, 2014
Last week, researchers from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan published findings in the journal Neuron signaling that they’d closed in on a diagnostic method to detect tangles of tau proteins previously linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The work relies on a newly-developed chemical the researchers created that can actually bind to tau proteins in the brain. In turn, positron emission tomography (PET) scanning can then reveal any buildup of these tau proteins in patients suspected of having Alzheimer’s.
So just how big an advancement could this research be?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 94,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s. Another 243,000 Minnesotans care for an individual with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The total cost of care associated with such conditions in Minnesota is $3.57 billion annually.
Unpaid caregivers provide the majority of care to patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 60 percent of those caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high. Worse, more than one-third of such caregivers report symptoms of depression.
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurological disease that affects an estimated 5 million people today. According to WHO, without a cure that number will balloon to an estimated 15 million by 2050.
New research has demonstrated the Alzheimer’s disease processes begins as early as 20 years before clinical symptoms appear, an asymptomatic period referred to as the “silent phase” of Alzheimer’s. This period occurs long before someone is diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s.