A Snapshot of Alzheimer's Research, From the Institutional Point of View

Where are we with Alzheimer's research? I noticed a very institutional point of view today. Only the big, heavily funded consensus science is mentioned - none of the more exciting or speculative recent research. This is science patterned after lumbering organizations; slow to change direction, careful and extremely conservative in taking steps or drawing conclusions. Effectively, it's yesterday's science, the well-trodden and heavily regulated path. After extracting the three letter agencies and policy matters:

The body of data on Alzheimer's that has accumulated to date is substantial, researchers say, marking a pivotal point in the disease's history and transforming the perception of Alzheimer's as an isolating and inevitable consequence of aging to a potentially manageable, chronic disease that can be slowed or even prevented through a vaccine.

What scientists know so far is this:

-- the amyloid peptide -- which forms the plaques in the brain that prevent neurons from communicating -- is the primary culprit in the vast majority of cases, giving researchers a specific disease target to aim for;

-- less than 1 percent of Alzheimer's cases are caused by a single gene mutation;

-- anti-inflammatory drugs and estrogen don't seem to work, but antioxidants, the supplement DHA and cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins show promise;

-- lifestyle choices including exercise, diet, intellectual stimulation and social interaction all play a critical part in warding off brain-plaque formation.

Pharmaceutical companies are currently testing drugs that specifically target amyloid peptides and remove them from the brain, and vaccines that harness the body's own immune system to do the same job. Other experimental therapies go after Alzheimer's symptoms by, for example, correcting imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that control communications among the brain's neurons.

The rest is worth reading for an insight into the mindset of those who see science as as a block-puzzle of large funding entities, legislation and regulation. From where I stand, nothing could be further from the actual process of creating new knowledge and new technologies; it's rather unfortunate that so many people "graduate" from useful, productive work into that airy realm of block-puzzles.

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