If indeed Stanford University researchers have discovered an Alzheimer’s cure, 2016 may be as great a year as 1916 was a catastrophe.
It turns out that solving one of man’s worst nightmares may be a simple matter of boosting the immune system. The Telegraph reports:
Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.
These cells, called ‘microglia’ function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently.
Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.
One other interesting possibility. The researchers genetically engineered some mice not to have EP2 at all. In those mice, they were unable to induce dementia, suggesting an even more advanced cure down the line.
Alzheimer’s is America’s sixth leading cause of death. 36 million people have Alzheimer’s worldwide, and only 1-in-4 have been diagnosed. 1-in-9 Americans over 65 have it, and 1-in-3 Americans over 85. 2-in-3 Alzheimer’s patients are women, and the disease is twice as likely in blacks and Hispanics. The human cost is incalculable; the financial cost is pretty staggering too, at over $220 billion annually in the United States alone.
And this year, or as soon as the FDA will allow your grandmother to get help anyway, all of that may just go away.
Happy New Year!
NOTE: An earlier version of this article originally ran here.
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