Close to five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. That number is predicted to rise to 16 million by 2050. Scientists are working to prevent that projection from happening… at the very least trying to find a treatment that will ease the impact of the debilitating disease.

The cancer drug bexarotene has shown some positive results as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientists at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine report in the journal Science that bexarotene reversed cognitive, sensory and pathological deficits caused by Alzheimer’s in mice.  While the discovery is hopeful, scientists are tempering this news with the fact that the drug has not yet been tested on people… outcomes don’t always translate the same way with humans.

Other strides have been noted in recent studies.  A new finding may help to zero in on predicting Alzheimer’s up to ten years before symptoms appear.  This may help to develop new treatments that can stop the disease early on from progressing.

Inherited early-onset Alzheimer’s may be more closely related to late-onset Alzheimer’s than earlier thought.  Researchers have found similar gene mutations in both forms… prompting some experts to believe each disease may come from the same cause.

Stimulating the brain with such activities as solving puzzles, writing and playing games throughout life can help ward off the disease.  While researchers have always thought that keeping the brain active was important, for the first time they have been able to identify an underlying biological link between the two.

While these studies shed new hope on finding a cure for Ahlzheimer’s, Dr. Peter Rabin of Johns Hopkins University cautions that it takes time.  “Science usually works in a slow, deliberate fashion.  That is a strength, because it can prevent mistakes such as exposing people to drugs that don’t work and that have serious side effects.  But it leads to frustration in people when they or their loved ones have the disease being studied.”  May, 2012

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