New perspectives needed to tackle Alzheimer’s and dementia
After 40 years of high-profile failures in Alzheimer’s research there’s an urgent need for new ways to combat the disease, the prompt for a recent public event in Sydney.
This fact was the driver to gather an expert panel for Open Minded: Embracing new perspectives in Alzheimer’s disease, hosted by the UTS Centre for Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine (CNRM) and supported by the Blackmore Foundation.
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and the number one cause of death for Australian women, accounting for more than 10 per cent of female deaths in 2017.
Professor Bryce Vissel, Dale Bredesen MD, Associate Professor David Burke, Petrea King and medical journalist Sophie Scott came together to discuss new ways to approach the disease.
Professor Bryce Vissel, director of the CNRM, advocated for an unbiased approach to the neuroscience of Alzheimer’s, saying that too much focus has been given to the effect of amyloid proteins.
He said more research needed to be done into the synapse, the connection point between brain cells; understanding the risk factors; and driving plasticity and regeneration.
CEO of the Quest for Life Foundation, Petrea King, said people needed to start adjusting the modifiable risk factors, like diet and exercise, in their 30s and 40s. Vissel added that if scientists could slow Alzheimer’s by five years, it would prevent more than 300,000 Australians getting the disease.
Dale Bredesen MD said researchers need to screen for things including, but not limited to, starving of insulin, gut health and hormone status in Alzheimer’s patients to advance understanding of the complex condition.
Associate Professor David Burke from Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital said that, when it came to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, everybody’s story is completely different.
“I’ve never seen two patients who are the same,” he said. “You have to consider a person’s cognitive decline within their own context.”
Burke argued that the way to achieve change in Alzheimer’s research and treatment is to consider biological, psychological and physiological factors together.
Professor Vissel said that the response to the event had been overwhelming. “Almost 1,000 people registered to attend Open Minded: Embracing new perspectives in Alzheimer’s disease, in addition to numerous phone calls and queries on social media. The community need to hear from thought leaders on this health crisis is clear.”
The audience included medical and healthcare professionals, scientists, academics and members of the public who’ve been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Open Minded: Embracing new perspectives in Alzheimer’s disease was the first event in an intended series. To register interest in attending future events for the public good, follow the CNRM on Facebook, Twitter and join the centre’s mailing list by registering through this link.