Bioscience

Researchers hope to quell a surge of Alzheimer’s cases with new diagnostic tools

August 25, 2010

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: The Washington Post] – “We have a tsunami coming at us, and we’re sitting in a rowboat,” says neurologist Richard Mayeux of New York’s Columbia University.

The surge that worries Mayeux is Alzheimer’s disease: In 2050, 13.5 million Americans may have it, at an annual health-care cost of more than $1 trillion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Alzheimer’s could bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid,” says Howard Fillit of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

The impending epidemic, combined with emerging technologies, is driving a transformation in the fight against the disease: Instead of beginning treatment after symptoms appear, the idea is to detect and respond to the disease in the earliest, previously undetectable stages, before it can irretrievably ravage the brain. Researchers say that, based on current estimates of life expectancy, delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by an average of five years could reduce the number of patients by half.

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