Alzheimer’s disease has been with humanity forever. It was first described in 1906 by a psychiatrist named, you guessed, Alois Alzheimer! But the disease had been around so much longer than that. I think most of us have been affected one way or another by this disease. For me it was my grandmother. She spent years suffering from the disease and the rest of us had to suffer through it with it. This was not a very joyous time as you can imagine.
It has been estimated that as many as 27 million people worldwide. Sadder is the idea that those numbers may quadruple by 2050. On a personal note, it could well affect me before 2050 and it is a scary proposition. It was hard facing my grandmother when I knew she had no idea who I was and was often afraid of nearly everything in life. I hope that kind of thing never happens to my family but I do fear it will. Alzheimer’s disease can be a scary thing for all involved.
For decades we have attempted to find the causes of the disease. Finding the cause might help us find a cure, any cure. For now all one can hope for is to delay the onset of the disease. Science seems to agree that Alzheimer’s disease can be used to maybe reduce the risk or maybe just push back the onset. Intellectual activities include things like reading or playing chess. Also, staying involved in social activities can also help. But do these things cure the disease? Nope.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a phrase that I had never heard of previously. It is apparently a naturally occurring protein. This protein has the ability to either prevent or reverse things like memory loss, cognitive impairment and brain cell deterioration; at least in animal models according to an article in Nature Medicine. Dr. Mark Tuszynski, UC San Diego School of Medicine and neurologist at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health System.
“The effects of BDNF were potent.” said Dr. Mark Tuszynski. “When we administered BDNF to memory circuits in the brain, we directly stimulated their activity and prevented cell death from the underlying disease.”
This BDNF stuff is produced throughout the life of people. It is produced in the portion of the brain that, oddly enough, supports memory. Could this be the cure we have been looking for?
Nope. Not yet at least. More studies and trials beyond mice and monkeys need to be done. Perhaps BDNF isn’t the panacea we have all been hoping for. If not it’s not then at least we can continue to hold out hope that science is on the right track and will be able to find a cure sooner than later.