Research published in Nature Genetics this month (April 2011), carried out by British and U.S. scientists, has identified 5 new gene loci associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. This breakthrough means we now know that there are 10 genes linked to Alzheimer's. So what do these discoveries mean for people with the disease and what do role will gene therapies have in future treatment?
Identifying Individual Genetic Risk Factors
Alzheimer's is a complex neurodegenerative disease and at the present time we do not know what exactly causes it. The studies into human genes hopes to answer the question, how genes influence an individual's overall risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, and how much a person's genetic makeup will affect a particular aspect of that risk. It is highly unlikely that Alzheimer's will be the result of a single cause. Many doctors believe that several variations come under the overall label of Alzheimer's.
Scientists are making amazing discoveries about how genes affect disease and it is an exciting time that holds out great hope for the future.
Could Gene Therapies Cure Alzheimer's?
Gene therapy involves the delivery of new genes into the cells of a patients brain to replace defective ones. At the present time there are a number of studies looking how gene replacement can help people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Some research is showing that a condition can improve but there have been no cures yet. In Alzheimer's disease, destruction of brain cells occurs and so a gene treatment that reverses that is not likely. Gene therapy however could arrest the condition early enough to prevent massive irreversible brain damage occurring.
Drug Treatments that Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's
Scientists say that as our understanding of people's individual genetic makeup will affect how drugs are given for many different diseases in the future. They believe that many people are taking drugs that for them are at worst ineffective and at best only partially so. In the future drug therapies will be targeted better and more individually adapted to cure and treat diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Future Treatments- Neural Stem Cells, Brain Repair and Brain Mapping
There is a lot of research taking place into the controversial area of neural stem cells treatment. Stem cells are used to repair damage caused by diseases and conditions where brain tissue degenerates. We also know a lot more about how the brain repairs itself and tries to compensate for destruction of brain cells in adjourning areas by cell migration. We are also identifying more accurately how the brain functions and what areas are involved in human activity. All this knowledge will fundamentally affect how we treat people with Alzheimer's disease and what therapies will be helpful to that individual.
Preventative Steps for Alzheimer's That You Can Take Now
The evidence is variable as to how much changes to lifestyle can influence your chances of getting Alzheimer's. Most literature suggests a healthy lifestyle will reduce the likelihood, but research findings do vary; one example is Little Proof Lifestyle Changes Prevent Alzheimer's. However, most doctors and scientists agree that sensible exercise, a healthy diet, regular check ups from your doctor can all contribute to prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer's. We must not underestimate the importance of taking responsibility for improving and maintaining our health rather just than looking to medicine and drugs to cure it when it has all gone wrong.
More on prevention from Dorian's sharepost New Research-Some Thoughts About What Steps You Can Take to Avoid Alzheimer's
Published On: April 20, 2011