Living with Alzheimer’s, a serious mental illness that causes a decline in memory and mental ability, is frightening and frustrating.
Worldwide, almost 45 million people suffer from a form of dementia (memory loss and inability to think logically), costing more than $277 billion a year. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are unable to lead a regular life and are often forced to seek help to live safely.
However, the discovery of a new drug may change the lives of people diagnosed with memory loss and early stages of Alzheimer's.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
So what exactly is the problem with Alzheimer’s disease? It causes degeneration of brain tissue, nerve cells, and other parts of the brain involved in memory. Alzheimer’s makes it harder for the brain to communicate with the body and function properly, as well as weakens one’s memory.
Even worse, there have been no new drugs for Alzheimer's in 15 years, which is why the discovery of a new drug is such a critical breakthrough.
The only test subjects so far have been on mice and other animals, but scientists believe that anyone over the age of 55 suffering from Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses can use the drug to reverse or prevent the symptoms.
How Does the Drug Work?
Mental illnesses usually damage neurons and other structures found in the brain, such as GABA receptors (chemicals that enable communication between nerve cells). The new drug, developed by researchers at the University of Toronto, works by repairing these damaged neurons and other receptors involved with memory.
Lab tests reveal that half an hour after receiving the drug, older mice had better memory skills. Furthermore, brain cells which had shrunk in the mice significantly grew back after two months of treatment.
However, the drug does have some drawbacks. Dr. James Pickett, head researcher at Alzheimer’s Society, states that previous drugs treating Alzheimer’s “cause unpleasant side effects like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.” Nevertheless, he affirms that the new drug is more precise than its predecessors and there is a high probability that it will not cause as many side effects.
The lab mice suffered no injury, but the chemical difference between mice and human brains could change the effectiveness of the drug. Because of this, scientists plan to continue animal testing for a few years before the drug’s first human trials.
It is still too early to know if the drug can be used. But if this drug does prove effective, 45 million people around the world have a chance of living free of dementia. Thanks to this enlightening discovery, our generation may never experience Alzheimer’s in our old age.
Sources: BBC, The Guardian