“Billions of dollars have been spent on developing & testing treatments & some 200 drug trials have failed. It is over 15 years since the last treatment for dementia was approved, & the few drugs available do not work very well for very long”
The lady in question, who we can refer to as Lady X, had a genetic profile which indicated that by the time she turned 50, she would develop Alzheimer’s. Yet, she did not actually suffer any form of cognitive decline until her 70s, so how did she miss this long drawn out fate?
Putting a Spotlight on New Research
Finally, instead of going one step forward, and 3 steps back, researchers are actually making some headway, as a new scientific comprehension of Alzheimer’s is taking center stage, and scientists are looking outside the box for new methods to treat and prevent this condition which is becoming more widespread with each passing day.
The journal Nature Medicine, has just published a report on Lady X. As it turns out: “she has another mutation that has protected her from dementia, even though her brain has developed a major neurological feature of Alzheimer’s disease. This ultra rare mutation appears to help stave off the disease by minimizing the binding of a particular sugar compound to an important gene”. And the great news is, the findings indicate that future treatments could be designed to give other sufferers the same defensive mechanism.
A leading investigator at Gladstone Institutes, Dr. Yadong Huang, stated: “I’m very excited to see this new study come out — the impact is dramatic, and this new finding is very important for both research and therapeutic development”. However, this is just a glimmer of hope toward a potential pathway for some form of remedy; and the essential research which needs to be embarked on, will take some years, as researchers have to duplicate the protective mechanism found in Lady X, by testing it in lab animals and human brain cells.
As the New York Times explains, Lady X, who has just reached her late 70s, is a Colombian, residing in Medellín: “the epicenter for the world’s largest family to experience Alzheimer’s. It is an extended Colombian family of about 6,000 people whose members have been plagued with dementia for centuries”.
So many incredible things in life come about from the brave people who stand up in the crowd.
Dr. Francisco Lopera, a famous Colombian neurologist, is one such person.
He started to scrupulously gather the family’s birth and death records in the desolate Andes mountain villages and Medellín. Indeed: “he documented the sprawling family tree and took dangerous risks in guerrilla and drug-trafficking territory to cajole relatives of people who died with dementia into giving him their brains for analysis”. A selfless act that could potentially help countless millions of people destined for dementia. So to Lopera, and the 6,000 family members who unknowingly played a crucial role in this research, we wholeheartedly thank you…