Fighting Alzheimer’s: New Hope in a New Year Through Innovation

12/20/10

The toll of Alzheimer’s disease on patients, their families, and our society is devastating. Alzheimer’s robs people of their memories, their identities and ultimately their lives. And the cost to society can’t be ignored. According to a new study, “Medicines in Development for Alzheimer’s Disease,” without effective new drugs and other therapies that curtail or prevent the disease, the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s is projected to increase from 5 million today to 13.5 million by 2050. Those patients are estimated to cost the health care system $1.08 trillion each year.

Fortunately, advances in Alzheimer’s drug development give cause for hope. One of the new drugs in development is Exebryl-1, a treatment designed by my company, Kirkland, WA-based Proteotech, to inhibit the formation and buildup of toxic protein deposits in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This approach is a big step forward because it fights the cause, not the symptoms, of the disease. Exebryl-1 is one of 98 new medications that take an array of innovative approaches in fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

Now and in the near future, there are many encouraging developments in Alzheimer’s research. We’d like to highlight some of the trends in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease for 2011. The following list summarizes important advancements in Alzheimer’s disease understanding, diagnosis, treatments and preventative measures.

1. Understanding interactions: We have achieved a better appreciation of how two harmful proteins interact to cause Alzheimer’s disease. These two proteins, beta-amyloid and tau protein, have long been studied independently. The older opinion was that long-term accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain was the primary cause of interrupted communication between nerve cells and eventual cell death. The formation of tau protein tangles and its role in neuron cell death was thought to be significant but separate from that of beta-amyloid. But new research indicates that each of these proteins may work together to cause the cell death associated with Alzheimer’s. Ongoing research will zero in on this relationship, shedding more light on the complexity of the disease process and the best ways to counter it.

2. Refined diagnoses: Another important trend is the expansion and refinement of the diagnostic categories of Alzheimer’s disease. New studies are classifying patients into three primary groups: those with possible Alzheimer’s, those with probable Alzheimer’s and those with dementia other than Alzheimer’s. Why is this important? Until recently, if you were older and showing signs … Next Page »

Steve Runnels is the CEO of Kirkland, WA-based Proteotech. Follow @

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