A recent article points to great strides in Alzheimer’s research. In one, the chairman of the World Dementia Council predicts that a cure for dementia may very well be found within the next five years.
Dr. Dennis Gillings points to two particular breakthroughs that may soon be on the horizon. One line of research involves removing the plaques in the human brain that are associated with dementia. Another potential treatment pathway involves unscrambling neural tangles in the brains of dementia patients.
The U.K. Daily Telegraph interviewed Gillings recently, and we would encourage anyone in the senior caregiving field or the loved ones of dementia patients to read the interview for some words of needed encouragement.
In the interview, Gillings notes that the World Dementia Council, a British-based policy and advocacy organization, had set an original goal of being able to effectively attack the disease by 2025. “I feel a lot more optimistic now,” he states. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we get there by 2020 or 2021.”
Until recently, most researchers addressed dementia as “one type of disease,” but Gillings believes that breakthroughs will be more likely to come from treatments targeted at particular sub-sets. Gillings refers to this process as establishing a “more customized diagnosis.” This paradigm shift in thinking on disease intervention parallels much of the recent thinking in cancer treatment. Like cancer, dementia is not monolithic, but has many different causes, symptoms, and courses of progression.
While Gillings lauds the work of British researchers, he acknowledges that major breakthroughs are most likely to come first from U.S. researchers, due to this country’s greater investment in research and development.
Gillings is also the founder of a U.S.-based company that runs clinical trials in dementia research, and he calls for greater partnerships in the search for a cure. His greatest fear, he says, is that a breakthrough may be achieved but not properly funded or approved by regulators.
Gillings is the outgoing chair of the World Dementia Council and is being followed by Dr. Yves Joanette, the scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Aging. He notes, “The challenge is so huge here. We can get a man to the moon but we don’t know how the brain works.” He echoes Gillings belief that a multiplicity of diseases must be addressed individually in dementia research.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, calls for greater investment in dementia research, reminding the reader that a “tidal wave” of dementia is coming worldwide.
The need is growing daily; that is certain. But the guarded optimism of leaders in the field offers renewed hope for those of us who work in the senior care community or have loved ones with dementia.