It’s the new hot topic for doctors and researchers everywhere, as reports have been surfacing that there’s set to be a turning point for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease, which predominantly affects the brain, is described as ‘premature senility’, and causes a damaging plaque to form on brain cells. This deteriorates general mental functions – the major effects being, of course, loss of memory and learning difficulties. As has been reported recently in Nature, the scientific journal, the new and developing drug is set to not only remove these plaques, but to restore the mental functions of a patient to almost exactly the same as they were before the disease was contracted.

In the UK alone, there are 500,000 sufferers of the disease – something that deteriorates not only the mind of the patient, but also the hope of families and friends who are left to care for these loved ones, who may, at some point, cease to recognise them. Around 80 patients in the milder stages of the disease are being asked to take part in safety trials for the supposed cure, which is named Betabloc, and these trials are said to be close to completion. This information was released after scientists have revealed that the trials they partake on animals, such as mice, can only be conclusive to a certain extent. Although these trials are in their second stage, however, the full-blown cure isn’t set to be ready for as long as ten years, leaving current carriers of the disease and their families wondering: is this too little, too late? Of course, these large-scale clinical trials are set to improve the safety of the possible vaccine, but with medical and scientific advancement on the rise, it is astonishing that nothing has been done about this sooner.

The disease, most common in those aged 65 and over, has been splashed all over the press of late, papers and news channels claiming that the cure has been found. It is, however, not that simple. What about alternate health risks of new cures? Any effects seen on test mice cannot guarantee to coincide with what is seen in humans, and this is therefore a huge risk of implementing a new drug onto test-patients, as is the same with any new cure or vaccine. Scientists are however claiming that their latest discovery could be ‘one for the history books’, and they seem intent on believing that they will be able to prevent the death of brain tissue from this neurodegenerative disease. This is, however, only hypothesis, and only time will tell whether or not the cure will be the great victory it is dubbed to be.

More realistically, though, despite the victory of scientists being openly expressed, many have suggested that the process still has a long way to go before being perfected, and may take as long as a decade to be released in the UK. Not only this, but after a decade, there is still no guarantee of success. This means that the hopes of people everywhere are being raised, perhaps only to be greeted with disappointment, especially since medical history shows that drugs looking promising for test mice are not successful when tested on people.

This issue is however not only a hot topic in the UK – scientists in India have also been working hard in aim to combat this world-wide disease. Chief Scientist Debasish Bhattacharyya has been experimenting on various cures for many years, and has eventually discovered that a tiny fraction of Russell’s viper venom, an extremely deadly toxin, can halt the memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Although being notorious for causing many deaths due to snakebite incidents, a very small dosage of this venom can actually help to kill the plaques that are causing memory loss in humans. This deadly substance has been tested on mice, and Scientists believe that if developed as a drug, this could halt the progress of Alzheimer’s when administered – although damage made before the implementation of the drug cannot be repaired. This cure, however, is likely to be illegal in the UK, and may lead to many patients travelling overseas to gain treatment.

We have, then, a lot of waiting to do before the cure is complete, and for many, it will be too late. Thousands lose their lives due to this disease each year and patient suffering is ongoing – many ending up in care homes, which their families find not only difficult to afford, but difficult to deal with; the disease is heartbreaking for, as is said, everyone but the patient themselves.

Let’s hope that advancements in science and medical care can help find the right cure for these innocent patients, and fast.

References:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10539/Cure-Alzheimers-closer.html

http://www.firstpost.com/fwire/indian-scientists-find-clue-to-alzheimers-cure-in-russells-viper-venom-1441875.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24478942