Sunday, August 29, 2010

No news is bad news on Alzheimer's Disease--but that's no reason to give up.

The above headline, "Years Later, No Magic Bullet Against Alzheimer's Disease," doesn't quite do justice to the grim gist of Gina Kolata's report in The New York Times.   The truth is that we have barely any bullets at all against AD--and we're not even remotely sure if any those bullets can reach the target.

As Kolata makes clear, describing the work of a medical "jury" convened by NIH to consider the status of AD treatment:

“Currently,” the panel wrote, “no evidence of even moderate scientific quality exists to support the association of any modifiable factor (such as nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, prescription or nonprescription drugs, social or economic factors, medical conditions, toxins or environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” 

“I was surprised and, at the same time, very sad” about the lack of evidence, said Dr. Martha L. Daviglus, the panel chairwoman and a professor of preventive medicine and medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. “This is something that could happen to any of us, and yet we are at such a primitive state of research.”

To sum up: There's "no evidence" that anything we are doing to forestall or treat Alzheimer's is working.  And the chair of a panel analyzing the evidence calls the state of our effort "primitive." This chart, also in the Times story, sums it up:

This lack of any real good news on AD is a little disheartening, to be sure, but there's not reason to be permanently disheartened.  Science may be the closest thing we have to a free lunch, but it's still not free. And certainly never easy.

Remember the confident predictions of a half-century ago?   We were supposed to have established lunar colonies by now, and been to Mars and back.   We can still get to space in a big way--or achieve a hundred other worthy objectives--but we do have to try.

1 comment:

  1. You are right, we do have to try.
    Recently, they have found that people with RA, seldom get AD. They are now just starting to study this to find out why. Maybe there are answers in the RA chromosomes.
    My family experience with AD tells me there is more than one AD disease, like there are different forms of Diabetes and Cancers.
    It’s not going to be easy. But with the Boomers coming behind me, we have to solve the problem because the other choices will bankrupt us financially and or morally.