- New techniques for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease paint a picture of the pathology in the living, yielding biological insights that could be used to develop antidementia drugs.
- Early diagnosis may enable treatment before symptoms appear—intervention that could halt the advance of the disease. Scientists also hope to target drugs to particular pathologies as they pop up in the brain.
- A large number of potential treatments are in the research pipeline, and investigators believe some of them are likely to be on the market within 10 years or even sooner.
Kassie Rose, 30 years old, faces a frightening prospect: if a genetic coin toss fails to go her way, she could lose her mind within a decade or two. A mutation that causes Alzheimer’s disease runs in her family, the DeMoes of North Dakota. The odds of any DeMoe harboring the mutation are 50–50, and if the mutation is present, the chances of developing early-onset Alzheimer’s—the type that erodes memory before age 65—are 100 percent.
Five of the six DeMoe siblings—Rose’s father and her aunts and uncles—have the mutation. One man is in a nursing home in his mid-50s; a second, younger, is on his way. A sister in her late 40s is already noticing her first symptoms. The next generation is tortured with the decision of whether to get tested. Rose, for now, chooses not to know. After all, she is unlikely to benefit much from the information: Alzheimer’s remains incurable and, largely, unpreventable as well.