When Alzheimer’s disease was first discovered 111 years ago, researchers couldn’t figure out what was causing the memory loss and mental decline. But now that so much more knowledge about the disease exists, one expert neuroscientist thinks the the diagnosis might be preventable within the next 10 to 20 years.
Although there’s no cure, Joseph Jebelli, PhD—whose research primarily revolves around the cell biology of Alzheimer’s disease—thinks the way to defeat the disease for good is to delay its onset…for the patient’s entire lifespan.
“It will change the course of the disease, pushing it back to the point where not only do they not experience any symptoms, but they’re dying naturally,” —Dr. Joseph Jebelli, Alzheimer’s disease expert
“[The idea is to push] the disease back by developing a drug that we can give to someone years before they start experiencing symptoms,” Dr. Jebelli told the New York Post. That means being more proactive about checking for biomarkers—AKA signs of the disease in spinal fluid and blood—to ensure those who could benefit from early treatment get it in time. “It will change the course of the disease, pushing it back to the point where not only do they not experience any symptoms, but they’re dying naturally,” he added.
But is preventing Alzheimer’s really possible within the next decade or two? Dr. Jebelli said Alzheimer’s differs from a disease like cancer, which has an obvious target to treat. But even so, recent research looks promising for finding a solution.
“We now understand that Alzheimer’s seems to be caused by these proteins called plaques and tangles [in the brain],” Dr. Jebelli said. “What we’re doing now is actually targeting the underlying biology of the disease, instead of just targeting the symptoms.”
“We’re now actually targeting the underlying biology of the disease, instead of just targeting the symptoms.” —Dr. Jebelli
Part of what he calls “the beginning of the end” of Alzheimer’s might have to do with stem cells, specifically doctors reprogramming them into brain cells, then implanting those cells into the Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. With the science on researchers’ sides, the number of Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s—which is currently a whopping 5.5 million—hopefully won’t continue to grow.