Dementia affects more than 55 million people around the globe, according to the World Health Organization. The number of people living with dementia is expected to continue rising as populations age and life expectancy improves.
If you're experiencing symptoms or have a loved one at Bethesda Gardens Loveland who has dementia, you may be anxious to know how scientists are working to diagnose, prevent and treat this devastating condition. Keep reading to find out what researchers are learning about dementia and whether there's a cure on the horizon.
Dementia describes the state of a person's mental functioning and is characterized by a decline in memory, thinking, learning, comprehension and other cognitive functions. This progressive deterioration interferes with daily activities and quality of life. Dementia takes a significant physical, emotional and financial toll on those living with dementia as well as family and friends.
There are many forms of dementia, but most research focuses on:
There's currently no cure for dementia. Families in Colorado that are coping with the realities of this condition need a strong support network, including health care teams, social workers and their faith community. Assisted living communities such as Bethesda Gardens in Loveland, for example, can also provide essential memory care support to residents living with dementia.
The good news is, countries are stepping up their investment in research in an effort to improve the lives of those affected by dementia. Between 2011 and 2016, collective funding for dementia research more than doubled in six of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States). In the United States, the National Institutes of Health anticipated spending $3.2 billion on Alzheimer's research in 2021, seven times the amount spent in 2011.
Dementia is a complex condition. Researchers still don't know what causes changes in the brain leading to dementia. In most cases, there isn't one clear cause but a combination of genetic and environmental factors, making it difficult to find a single treatment or cure.
Researchers also face other challenges as they strive to make headway.
While there's no cure for dementia, researchers continue to make strides in learning about the condition. Every finding helps advance knowledge to get scientists closer to prevention or treatment.
Residents of our assisted living community may want to keep an eye on some of these promising areas of research:
Immunotherapy is designed to trigger the body's immune system to defend itself against disease. Some researchers are focusing on using vaccination or monoclonal antibodies to target the abnormal proteins that build up in the brain. Ideally, the antibodies will bind to and destroy the proteins.
In June 2021, the FDA approved a drug called aducanumab (marketed under the brand name Aduhelm) for use in some cases of Alzheimer's disease. This antibody aims to reduce the presence of amyloid beta plaque.
Damage to the brain begins about 20 years before clinical symptoms of dementia appear. Some studies are focusing on people who are currently healthy but at increased risk of developing dementia because of genetics or family history.
Using PET scans, scientists are trying to understand what's happening in their brains before symptoms appear. This research may help health care providers target neurodegenerative diseases early, anticipating the onset of symptoms and providing interventions before cognitive decline begins.
Some scientists, including those at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, are leveraging stem cell technology to learn how damage to the brain begins. The studies involve taking skin cells from people with Alzheimer's disease and reprogramming the cells into brain cells. Researchers use these cells to learn more about cognitive decline, comparing the differences in cells with and without Alzheimer's disease. They can also look at proteins generated by these cells and how the cells respond.
Dementia can be overwhelming for all affected, but scientists are working tirelessly to provide hope. As they build their knowledge, they're realizing there's likely not one single cure. Treatment may differ in each person depending on the causes of the cognitive decline and may even require a combination of drugs, similar to the way doctors approach cancer. But perhaps the greatest impact scientists can make in the area of dementia research is better understanding the causes to prevent or delay its onset in the first place.
Bethesda Gardens Loveland
Formerly Park Regency Loveland
1875 Fall River Drive
Loveland, CO 80538
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