Diagnosis to cure for Alzheimer's

November 18, 2011 2:55:51 PM PST
More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. That equals the same amount of people living in the entire state of Minnesota, Colorado or Maryland. There is no cure.

Early diagnosis is difficult and very few drugs are being tested to slow the progression. Doctors are working on new ways to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's disease that could be the top game changers of this year.

Lisa Carbo has trouble remembering the simple things. She keeps a journal to remember what she had for lunch, and which medicine she's taken. What Lisa fears most? She won't remember her granddaughter.

"She's the love of my life," Lisa said.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer's four years ago, Lisa's hoping a new I-V drug will stop the progression of her disease.

"Most of the antibodies that are being studied right now, it attacks the proteins before they accumulate and form plaques," Michael Biunno, MD Louisiana Research Associates, said.

Alzheimer's disease is caused by abnormal proteins in the brain. These new meds are antibodies that attack the proteins that cause plaque buildup.

Ed Coleman is hoping the same drug that Lisa is taking will change his fate. Doctors believe it could attack the proteins even before they reach the brain, and stopping this disease is critical.

Deaths from Alzheimer's increased 66 percent in the last decade, while deaths from breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke and HIV all decreased. Diagnosing it early is key to successful treatment.

A way to see Alzheimer's years before the brain is damaged has been developed, doctors inject an imaging compound called A-V-45 into patients. Pet scans reveal normal brains and brains full of amyloid plaques.

In another recent discovery, a team of researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center found ten genes that account for half of the genetic risk for Alzheimer's. They hope identifying patients with these genes could mean earlier treatments.