Latest News on Alzheimer’s Research: Milestones Reached This Past Year
With so much negative news in the forefront of 2020, it is worth reflecting on several of the remarkable achievements the year brought – such as the latest news on Alzheimer’s research. Katie McDonough, director of programs and services for the Alzheimer’s Association, shares, “There are many things that we’re learning and it’s an exciting time for Alzheimer’s research.”
Here are just a few of the milestones reached that are taking us ever nearer to a cure:
- Identification of Alzheimer’s disease risk factors. Learning about the leading risk factors for dementia, including pollution, excessive alcohol consumption, and traumatic brain injury (among others) is projected to reduce cases of dementia across the globe by as much as 40%.
- Decreasing rates of Alzheimer’s cases. For the preceding three decades, Alzheimer’s diagnoses in North America and Europe have declined by 13% per decade – very likely as a result of lifestyle changes.
- Advancements towards earlier diagnosis. The Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases initiative (EDoN) has been launched, whereby digital devices are now being developed to diagnose dementia earlier – as early as 10 – 15 years before symptoms begin.
- Greater focus on MCI. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is now being viewed more closely, making it possible for earlier strategy, diagnosis and treatment.
- Dementia blood tests. Predictors for the potential risk of Alzheimer’s disease are becoming more sophisticated, and in a recently available research study from Sweden, scientists uncovered blood-based proteins that anticipate future thinking and memory problems.
- Review of antipsychotic medications. A recently available research study conducted by the University College London revealed an increased rate for the prescription of antipsychotic drugs for those with Alzheimer’s – likely linked to the greater need for delirium management as well as agitation and anxiety from COVID-19 restrictions. These meds are recommended only when no alternative is available, therefore the reduction of their use is currently being further explored.
- Artificial intelligence. At a faster pace and lower cost, an innovative new AI solution is able to determine the shape of proteins in the brain, helping medical researchers design treatments that can help remove these proteins.
- Aducanumab. The FDA accepted this promising medication in 2020 for a priority review process, meaning that sometime early in 2021, we should be finding out if it’s approved for use in the general population.
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