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Jane Sherman

The Journey to Cure Alzheimers. What is Taking so Long?

why is there no cure for alzheimers Karen, one of our Memory Loss Collaborative support group participants, who has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, says so often with great exasperation,

“Dr. Alzheimer identified this disease over a hundred years ago. WHY haven’t they made more progress in dealing with this disease!”

Good question!

Surprisingly, we are still in the relatively early stages of research on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It might be helpful to look at a timeline of this illness. The blue text reflects the progress in Cancer research. It is interesting to note that it was only 14 years ago that Eric Kandel was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for his discoveries of neuro-transmission.

Alzheimer’s Disease Timeline

19th Century – birth of scientific oncology (cancer), microscope used to study disease tissue

Late 1800’s – early therapies for cancer discovered and put into use

1900 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries
1900 Normal life expectancy: 50 years

1906 Alois Alzheimer describes patient, Auguste Deter. He observed brain shrinkage and abnormal deposits in her brain during autopsy

1910 Alzheimer’s disease named

1910 – 1960 Symptoms now known to be those of Alzheimer’s disease were referred to as “senile dementia” or “hardening of the arteries” and considered a normal part of aging.

1931 Electron microscope was invented in Germany, making it possible to magnify up to 1 million times.

1934 National Cancer Institute Established

Late 1940’s After WWII the electron microscope became a common major research tool, enabling scientists to study brain cells in greater detail than ever before.

1960’s Research began to reveal issues with plaques & tangles and scientists began to consider Alzheimer’s disease NOT normal aging.

1966 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries

1972 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries

1974 National Institute on Aging was founded by an act of Congress as one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1976 Alzheimer’s recognized as most common form of dementia

1978 Canada founded the Alzheimer’s Society, first of it kind in the world.

1979 Great Britain formed Alzheimer’s Disease Society, now called the Alzheimer’s Society in England, Ireland, Wales & Alzheimer’s Scotland in Scotland.

1980 Alzheimer’s Association founded in America.

1984 Congress directs National Institutes on Aging to pursue research related to Alzheimer’s disease. First Five Research Institutes: Harvard, Mt. Sinai, University of CA at San Diego, University of Southern California, Johns Hopkins
1984 Beta-Amyloid identified, chief component of Alzheimer brain plaques

1986 Tau protein identified, second pathological hallmark in Alzheimer’s – Tau is the cause of deconstruction of neurons.
1986 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries

1987 First Alzheimer’s drug trial. Partnership Alz Assoc, NIH, Pfizer
1987 First deterministic Alzheimer’s gene identified, on chromosome 21

1988 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries

1993 Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Tacrine, first drug specially targeting Alzheimer’s memory and thinking symptoms.

1994 President Regan shares with the public that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

1995 First transgenic mouse model announced – important research track.

2000 Eric Kandel – Won Nobel Prize for Brain Research: biological mechanisms of memory storage. First to record memory storage in hippocampus and neurotransmission.

2000 – 2005 FDA approves Exelon, Aricept, Namenda, Razadyne

2002 National Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic study begins. This is an initiative to collect blood samples from families with several members who developed Alzheimer’s to identify risk genes.

2004 Alzheimer’s Disease Neuro-Imaging Initiative – study to establish standards for obtaining and interpreting brain images.

2008 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries

2010 Alzheimer’s clinical trial database established
2010 Alzheimer’s named as 6th leading cause of death in US.
2010 Nobel Prize for Cancer Research discoveries

2012 International Alzheimer’s Disease Research Portfolio (to help track and implement research goals of the national Alzheimer’s Plan (NAPA)

2013 Normal life expectancy: women, 81 years – men, 76 years.

2014 Record $122 million increase for Alzheimer’s research signed into law by President Obama

Note to Advocates: Per the Alz Assoc: For every $27,000 Medicare and Medicaid spend on caring for people with Alzheimer’s and related illnesses, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends only $100 on Alzheimer’s Research.

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