Most of you probably know that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia among younger and older Americans. One in three Americans dies with either Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Scientists make a distinction between what they call late-onset and early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Very simply, early-onset is a disease that manifests itself among patients younger than 65 years old, and late-onset is among those who are 65 plus. As a geriatric care management professional, you can imagine that I commonly am involved with families who are addressing this frightening condition in a loved one.
If you are a caregiver to an older adult or other loved one who has developed Alzheimer’s, you are very familiar with short term memory loss as well as confusion, language difficulty or other cognitive issues. But there have been some recent possible breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research, particularly late-onset Alzheimer’s. What makes this potentially more exciting is that the specific Alzheimer’s manifestation where this research has relevance. It is for the common non-familial kind of Alzheimer’s Disease, the one that has seemed so unpredictable. In research published in the journal Nature, scientists at Columbia University seem to have narrowed down the late onset Alzheimer’s to two genetic pathways. They then compared the genetic pathways among study subjects who had not manifested Alzheimer’s and they did not have these pathways. They found in other subjects that these two pathways were associated with the development of what is called amyloid plaque. And that those without these particular genes did not have the amyloid tissue.
While this research is all very preliminary, the good news is that when scientists find these “pathways” are tied to the onset of a disease, they can then begin to research what they can do to therapeutically modify the pathways – in effect, turning off the gene expression. It is going to take a lot more research and testing, but it offers a much awaited bit of good news for the more than 5 million Americans and their caregivers who are living with this disease. For more information on the disease, we have links to the Alzheimer’s Association on our geriatric care management Support Tools Tab.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.