New hope for prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia
Alzheimer’s disease dementia affects 500,000 Canadians, and this number will grow quickly as people’s life expectancies increase. If we do not learn to prevent the disease, Canada and the world will soon face a public health crisis.
Alzheimer’s dementia develops slowly, after several decades of clinically-silent brain changes. This means that, even if we can’t cure the disease, its dementia symptoms can be prevented by interrupting the disease process in its pre-symptomatic stages.
Dr. John Breitner, Canada Research Chair in Prevention of Dementia, is seeking ways to prevent Alzheimer’s dementia. Some evidence suggests that several medicines or behavioural regimens can slow Alzheimer brain changes in older people who don’t have symptoms. But preliminary data are needed from humans to show that a chosen intervention will likely postpone the onset of dementia. To get the needed information, Breitner is studying ways to measure the progress of pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease (measures that are collectively called biomarkers). Some of the needed measurements will probably come from brain imaging techniques.
Using these measures, Breitner is conducting small clinical trials of promising prevention strategies in people who are at risk of developing dementia. His studies are designed to test whether the treatments change Alzheimer’s biomarker results over time.
Breitner’s research should lead to safe treatments for the prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia. That result in turn can help avoid the public health and economic crisis of rampant dementia.