Alzheimer's Disease

  • Approximately 4 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's; an estimated 14 million will have the disease by the middle of this century (2050) unless a cure or prevention is found.
  • One in 10 persons over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 have Alzheimer's disease.
  • The average lifetime cost per patient is $174,000, and total disease-associated costs reach $100 billion a year in the United States. Former generations may have refered to an elderly family member's odd manner as preoccupied or eccentric. Now, however, signs of erratic behavior or memory lapses trigger concerns about what has come to be recognized as the medical condition Alzheimer's disease.

The underlying causes of Alzheimer's are unclear, but the results—ravaged and dead nerve cells in the brain, accompanied by memory loss—suggest that the most effective ways to battle the disease may be to help brain cells survive or, if possible, replace cells lost to the disease. SBP scientists are working toward these goals on several fronts.

More than one path to brain cell death

Mutations in a family of genes called presenilins are the most common cause of familial Alzheimer's and have been implicated in the formation of plaques that riddle the brains of patients with the disease. Associate Professor Zhuohua Zhang and his colleagues have intriguing evidence that partially inhibiting one member of the presenilin family can help brain cells survive.

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