Mystery remains as Alzheimer’s threat looms

Mystery remains as Alzheimer’s threat looms

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Mystery remains as Alzheimer’s threat looms

Alzheimer’s disease attacks one in 200 people in the world. AFP Photo

More than 100 years after it was first caught in the act of decaying a patient’s brain, Alzheimer’s remains one of medicine’s greatest challenges as it robs ever more people of their memory and independence.

Researchers make halting progress, reporting small steps forward along with many frustrating setbacks. And while care for Alzheimer’s sufferers has improved since former US president Ronald Reagan and British fantasy author Terry Pratchett helped lift the stigma, the key workings of the illness remain a riddle.

Alzheimer’s disease causes two-thirds of dementia cases, attacking one in 200 people, and finding a cure has never been more pressing as the world’s population grows and ages.

“There is going to be a tsunami in terms of (cost) burden,” Dean Hartley, director of science initiatives at the US Alzheimer’s Association, said ahead of World Alzheimer’s Day on Sept. 21. A door to hope slammed shut last month when drug giants Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson stopped tests of eagerly-anticipated therapies that failed in clinical trials.

French researchers has announced plant extract ginko biloba did not actually prevent dementia. The experts believe that if governments, researchers and drug companies work together efficiently, a treatment may be available within 20 years.