Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disease and its cause is still unknown. The disease is believed to involve progressive brain cell failure, but no one knows why it occurs.1 Sadly, many people have watched a family member or friend suffer the effects of Alzheimer’s. It’s estimated that 44 million people are currently battling the disease worldwide. Very little success has come from treatment options, and those available simply manage symptoms. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Research Funding
Unfortunately, because Alzheimer’s has been so difficult to solve, and the investment to try can be quite staggering, some pharmaceutical companies have conceded. However, The NIH plans to invest approximately $4 billion in Alzheimer’s research in 2018 – almost a billion dollars more than was provided in 2017. Furthermore, several private organizations and individuals recognize the importance of solving this puzzle and have either provided significant funding to the research community or attempted to develop new funding avenues. For example, Bill Gates personally invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund at the end of 2017 and said he would invest an additional $50 million in other start-ups ventures.2
The CEO of InvestAcure, Max Tokarsky, is interested in developing a long-term fundraising model for Alzheimer’s research. He would like to elevate Alzheimer’s research using crowdfunding. Tokarsky explained to Forbes, “If just 1.5% become spare change investors, that’s $600 million annually, $3 billion over 5 years. That would have thirty times the impact of Bill Gates’ recently publicized $100 million commitment to Alzheimer’s research. At a 15% participation rate, the number jumps to $6 billion annually or a staggering $30 billion over five years. That’s enough for countless clinical trials and a reasonable chance for a cure.”3 Tokarsky’s approach differs from existing crowdfunding sites which tend to focus on small, specific needs for individual researchers.
Recent Developments in Alzheimer’s Research
Alzheimer’s funding has led to a number of discoveries and developments in the race to find a cure. Although no cure has been identified, several new insights into the cause and progression have. The examples below are just a sampling of the most recent developments.
Previously, scientists believed that inflammation appears after Alzheimer’s develops. However, new research indicates inflammation comes before the protein buildups typically associated with the development of Alzheimer’s. The project’s leader, Professor Robert Richards from the University of Adelaide, said “We know that inflammation has different phases – early on it can be protective against a threat by actively degrading it, but if the threat is not removed, then persistent inflammation actually causes cell death”.4 Insights gathered in this study will lead to exploration of anti-inflammatory drugs and other new therapies for treating Alzheimer’s disease.4
Early warning signs
Alzheimer’s has proven very difficult to diagnose, and most diagnoses are not confirmed until after death. Identifying early warning signs and effective diagnostic markers is key in finding therapies to slow disease progression. A study recently published by researchers at the University of Sheffield observed disturbance of dopamine neurotransmitters and found when they don’t fire correctly, new memory formation is hindered.5 The study results indicate that when the hippocampus receives insufficient dopamine, it does not work properly, resulting in a reduced ability to shape new memories. The next steps in this study are first identifying these elements through imaging and developing a method to use the information to effectively diagnose Alzheimer’s early in its progression.5
Reducing amyloid-beta levels
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine employed a novel approach to reduce amyloid-beta proteins in the brain which build up in association with Alzheimer’s disease. Mice genetically engineered to stop amyloid-beta production were used and the team employed antibodies that bind to the protein to support their destruction.6 The researchers found obstructions along a pathway which caused dysfunction and swelling in neurons. 6 The combined treatment cleared these obstructions and allowed the neurons to continue on their path. In addition, the animals learning and memory improved as synapses, which had been destroyed by amyloid-beta, were restored. 6 The researchers hope their findings lead to new targets for Alzheimer’s therapies.
Animal Models of Alzheimer’s
Creating animal models of Alzheimer’s has been difficult as humans were believed to be the only species to contract the disease. When studies do involve animals, mice and rats are commonly used as they can easily be genetically modified and are inexpensive. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia recently developed a new rat model they believe could be key in studying “the buildup of amyloid plaques and vascular abnormalities in the brain”.7
Another promising development was the discovery of Alzheimer’s traces in primate and dolphin brains.8 This discovery provides hope of better models in the future for researchers to study development, progression, and treatments for naturally occurring cases of Alzheimer’s. Treatments developed with these animals would benefit humans as well as the animals themselves.
DSI’s neuroscience telemetry provides continuous, high-quality biopotential data, typically EEG, EMG, and ECG, from conscious, freely-moving animals ranging from mice to large animals, such as primates. This data assists researchers in further understanding the processes in the brain that affect the development and progression of Alzheimer’s and evaluate potential treatment methods. To learn more about DSI’s solutions, visit our website.
Selected Alzheimer’s Publications Citing Use of DSI Solutions
- Infarinato F, Rahman A, Del Percio C, Lamberty Y, Bordet R, Richardson J, Forloni G, Drinkenburg W, Lopez S, Aujard F, Babiloni C, Pifferi F, IMI project “PharmaCog” Consortium. (2015). On-Going Frontal Alpha Rhythms Are Dominant in Passive State and Desynchronize in Active State in Adult Gray Mouse Lemurs. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0143719. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143719
- Lundt A, Wormuth C, Siwek ME, Muller R, Ehninger D, Henseler C, Brioch K, Papazoglou A, Weiergraber M. (2016). EEG Radiotelemetry in Small Laboratory Rodents: A Powerful State-of-the Art Approach in Neuropsychiatric, Neurodegenerative, and Epilepsy Research. Hindawi Publishing Corporation. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/8213878
1Alzheimer’s Association. (2018). “What We Know Today About Alzheimer's Disease”. https://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_disease_causes.asp
2Jefferson RS. (2017). “Bill Gates Gives $100 Million To Alzheimer's Research. Move Called Game Changer By Advocates”. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinseatonjefferson/2017/11/13/bill-gates-gives-100-million-to-alzheimers-research-move-called-game-changer-by-advocates/#46357ec12403
3Jefferson RS. (2018). “CEO Says App Could Raise Billions For Alzheimer's Research”. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinseatonjefferson/2018/04/25/ceo-says-app-could-raise-billions-for-alzheimers-research/#7a58554c50c4
4Amin N. (2018). “Re-Designing Treatments for Alzheimer Disease”. Lab Roots. https://www.labroots.com/trending/drug-discovery/8696/re-designing-treatments-alzheimer-disease
5Kim BK. (2018). “Dopamine Levels Could be a Biomarker for Alzheimer's”. Lab Roots. https://www.labroots.com/trending/neuroscience/8638/dopamine-levels-biomarker-alzheimer-s
6Baylor College of Medicine. (2018). “Two is better than one to improve brain function in Alzheimer's disease mouse model”. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416121539.htm?utm_content=bufferaff28&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=bufferiab
7University of Missouri-Columbia. (2018). “New models could uncover important answers for Alzheimer's researchers”. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180430131757.htm
8Dvorsky G. (2017). “Traces of Alzheimer’s Disease Detected in Wild Animals for the First Time”. Gizmodo. https://gizmodo.com/traces-of-alzheimer-s-disease-detected-in-wild-animal-f-1819769344