Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disease that affects over 5 million Americans, with a cost of care of over $200 billion every year. There is currently no treatment available that can stop, or even slow, the progression of this disease. The drugs available today are only able to treat symptoms of the disease, offering minimal relief to patients and their families.
What we Know:
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the build-up of a toxic protein called amyloid-beta in the brain, which kills brain cells and stops them from “talking” to one another, leading to memory loss and other mental issues. The loss of these connections between brain cells, called synapses, is thought to be a driving factor of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Exactly when and how fast these connections deteriorate is not currently known. Many experts believe that the key to stopping Alzheimer’s disease lies in catching it early, before a patient has even begun showing signs of the disease. Being able to tell if someone’s brain is deteriorating—before memory loss occurs—would be a huge step toward curing this devastating disease.
Our Plan to Help:
Dr. Adam Mecca, of Yale University, will use a highly advanced imaging system called positron emission tomography to look at changes in the brains of 40 people with Alzheimer’s disease. To find out when brain cells start to lose the ability to talk to one another, the researchers will compare people at early and late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease with healthy individuals. Dr. Mecca believes that this non-invasive imaging technique may enable doctors to diagnose and follow Alzheimer’s disease earlier than is currently possible, which could drastically improve treatment success.