Alzheimer’s Research Milestones Reached This Past Year
With so much negative news in the forefront of 2020, it’s worth reflecting on some of the incredible achievements the year brought – such as the advancements in Alzheimer’s research milestones. Katie McDonough, director of programs and services at the Alzheimer’s Association, shares, “There are many things that we’re learning and it’s an exciting time for Alzheimer’s research.”
Identification of Alzheimer's disease risk factors. Understanding the leading risk factors for Alzheimer's, most notably excessive alcohol consumption, pollution, and traumatic brain injury (among others) is projected to reduce cases of dementia around the world by up to 40%.
Decreasing rates of Alzheimer's cases. For the previous 30 years, dementia diagnoses in North America and Europe have declined by 13% per decade – very likely as a result of changes in lifestyle.
Progress towards earlier diagnosis. The Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases initiative (EDoN) has been started, wherein digital devices are now being developed to diagnosis Alzheimer’s earlier – as early as 10 – 15 years prior to symptom onset.
Greater awareness of MCI. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is currently being examined more closely, allowing for earlier strategy, diagnosis and treatment.
Dementia blood tests. Predictors for the potential risk of Alzheimer’s disease have become more advanced, and in a recent study from Sweden, scientists identified blood-based proteins that forecast future thinking and memory problems.
Review of antipsychotic medications. A recently available research study conducted by the University College London uncovered an increased rate for the prescription of antipsychotic medications for all those with Alzheimer's – potentially linked to the greater dependence on delirium management as well as anxiety and agitation from COVID-19 restrictions. These meds are recommended only when no alternative is available, and the reduction of their use is being further explored.
Artificial intelligence. At a faster pace and less expensive, an innovative new AI solution is able to identify the form of proteins in the brain, helping researchers design therapeutics to help remove these proteins.
Aducanumab. The FDA accepted this promising drug in 2020 for a priority review process, meaning that sometime in 2021, we should find out if it’s approved for use in the general population.