Alzheimer’s disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, who in 1906 conducted a post mortem investigation of a woman who had died with dementia. Using dyes to stain brain cells, he observed two abnormal pathological characteristics – “plaques” and “tangles” – spread throughout the brain.
These plaques and tangles remain the targets of current research. In the 21st century, the plaques are known to consist of fragments of a protein called beta-amyloid, and the tangles are known as tau proteins.
With the average age of people in developed countries increasing, so too is the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The great emergency is that without a breakthrough treatment, the number of people living with dementia in Australia is expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050.
With growing populations this problem becomes greater still, and the anticipated social and economic burden is considered catastrophic. Consequently, the US federal government now commits US$991 million per year to research and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The Australian government has committed A$4 million a year for the next five years to overcome the same problem.
Vaccine Development All Over The World
There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The main treatment strategy for the past 30 years has been to try and reduce symptoms of memory loss and disorientation by replacing some of the brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that are lost as the disease progresses.