An estimated 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – a type of dementia that causes serious cognitive problems. The Alzheimer’s Association found there will be about 64,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease in Americans ages 65-74 in 2017 and the figures are even higher for adults over age 75. However, so far, potential treatments for the disease have proven to be unsuccessful.
A recent study led by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California suggests that Alzheimer’s disease impacts the brain before the degenerative effects of the disease take place. The researchers found that older adults with normal cognitive function, but high amounts of amyloid plaques in their brains, experience “faster mental decline.”
The results of this study show the huge potential role plaques may play in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and could allow researchers to take steps to begin treating the disease in its early stages.
“We need more studies looking at people before they have Alzheimer’s symptoms,” says Paul Aisen, senior author of the study and the director of the USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. “The reason many promising drug treatments have failed to date is because they intervened at the end-stage of the disease when it’s too late. The time to intervene is when the brain is still functioning well – when people are asymptomatic.”