Dr Emer MacSweeney, CEO and Medical Director at Re:Cognition Health was delighted to speak at the Future of Healthcare webinar hosted by Cushman and Wakefield and VWV on Alzheimer’s Disease and how prevention has to be the way forward.
Big changes in research are currently happening which will help change the future of Alzheimer’s. There are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and with an ageing popular and cases rising, it’s imperative that new treatments are developed and individuals receive an early and accurate diagnosis, to enable a better treatment pathway and care provision.
Dr MacSweeney explained the current medical focus in Alzheimer’s:
- Recognise symptoms as early as possible: these don’t just include problems with memory but also issues with speech and language, executive function, ability to concentrate, problems with visuo-spacial skills and calculation and or problems with executive function such as planning, judgement, working memory, inhibition and problem solving.
- Simple tests for diagnosis: Many of these symptoms can indicate a plethora of mild and progressive neuro-degenerative diseases, so getting an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment is essential
- Specific biomarkers for early and accurate diagnosis: Sensitive and specific biomarkers are required to make an accurate diagnosis and represent a huge game-changer in Alzheimer’s, as they enable detection of Alzheimer’s up to 20 years before first symptoms are apparent. Blood-based biomarkers, on the horizon now, will enable an even faster diagnostic pathway.
- Develop new treatments to slow or ideally halt the progression of the disease. These new treatments can only be developed through clinical trials.
Dr MacSweeney stresses the importance of understanding the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia (the two are commonly confused) and states that it’s imperative to understand that DEMENTIA IS NOT A DIAGNOSIS!
What causes Alzheimer’s?
Whilst there are many contributing factors that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr MacSweeney explains the current understanding of the cause of Alzheimer’s, including the abnormal accumulation amyloid and tau protein in the brain:
Beta-amyloid (Aβ) plaques – are over produced in the brain and not cleared, effectively. The increased amyloid burden in the brain prevents the cognitive brain cells from working normally. These brain cells required for memory and other cognitive functions eventually die and cannot regenerate.
Tau tangles – the abnormal accumulation of tau protein inside the cognitive brain cells also causes the death of precious cognitive brain cells and as this Tau protein jumps from one brain cell to the next, the destruction of brain cells progresses in line with progression of symptoms.
These are the two processes that we need to stop or slow down in order to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Dr MacSweeney explains that current medications available, on the market, help the dying brain cells work better, however they do not stop the brain cells from dying, therefore, they cannot stop the progression of the disease and its symptoms. The new-generation medications, currently available, only in late stage clinical trials are designed to stop the brain cells from dying, in the first place, mechanisms of action include:
- Epigenetic – correcting the genetics that programme how the neuro transmitters and nerve cells work
- Antiviral and antibacterial treatments and vaccination
Reduction of production of Amyloid and Tau proteins
- Increase of the clearance of Amyloid and Tau proteins
- Reduction of the damage caused by Amyloid and Tau proteins
What are the game changers?
The new-generation medications available through late stage clinical trials which are designed to slow down, or ideally halt, the progression of the disease. However, maximum effectiveness, these medications need to be given, as early as possible. The latter requires the presence of sophisticated biomarkers to provide an early and accurate diagnosis.
For further information on clinical trials for Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions such as Parkison’s, migraine and MS, please visit: www.brainandmindexperts.com
Watch the webinar here: