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The Hope of Precision Medicine: Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s

male and female scientists working in a lab

There is a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease every 65 seconds in the United States. This form of dementia affects more than 10 percent of individuals over 65 years of age. In fact, by the year 2050, an estimated 16 million people in the U.S. will have Alzheimer’s. With an aging population, there is a great need for alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. However, currently, no effective therapies for the condition exist. As a result, experts are actively exploring alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

The Promise of Precision Medicine

For years, alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have been elusive. Current types of medicine for Alzheimer’s strive to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation to protect brain cells from damage. Others attempt to enhance memory by boosting brain neurochemicals. However, neither categories of medicine for Alzheimer’s have been effective. Researchers are now turning their sights on precision medicine techniques as alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Though it’s early, some have found promising results.

Precision medicine uses a person’s specific genetic profile to select the correct therapy. Though used in cancer therapy, many are optimistic about precision medicine as alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no clear definition of genetic links to Alzheimer’s, so only a few have explored precision medicine for Alzheimer’s. Recently, however, researchers reported the effectiveness of a precision-type medication in a small group of Alzheimer’s patients. It may open up the door for many other alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s in the future.

Development of Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease 

In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain shows specific changes that are hallmarks of the disorder. These include plaques in the brain (composed of Beta-amyloid) as well as tangles of proteins inside neurons (tau proteins). However, while these biomarkers are helpful, they have not helped develop effective medicine for Alzheimer’s. Presumably, a medication for Alzheimer’s that reduces these plaques and tangles will improve memory in patients with the disease.

Alternative treatments for alzheimer's: elderly couple with the woman comforting the man
Alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s, will they be available soon enough?

The drug recently studied, Anavex 2-73, is believed to accomplish this task. This potential medicine for Alzheimer’s works by activating a Sigma-1 receptor on brain cells. In doing so, Anavex 7-23 activates the immune system’s defenses, which reduces Beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles. The researchers also noted that genetics played a role in whether this alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s was effective. Among the 32 participants in the study, the 80 percent who showed a positive response had similar genetic profiles. There is a massive interest in precision medicine among researches, and in developing an array of alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s.

The Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease

To develop alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease using precision medicine, there is a need for genetic links. If specific genetic profiles are not associated with risks for or protection against the disease, precision medicine is not useful. In Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have found over 100 genes linked to the condition.

In the pursuit of alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s using precision medicine, this is hardly “precise.” However, researchers are gradually making progress. Their efforts have located 27 specific gene sites associated with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s at present. As more are found, the use of precision medicine to find alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s becomes more likely.

Experts often describe precision medicine as providing the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. Being able to develop alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s using this model is ideal. A medicine for Alzheimer’s could be tailored to an individual’s genetic profile to halt the disorder. Alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s could prevent their development altogether. The challenge for researchers in Alzheimer’s disease is the condition’s complexity. Genetics is just one piece of the puzzle with several other factors involved in the disease’s occurrence. However, effective medicine for Alzheimer’s would be better than what is available currently.

When Be Will Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease Available?

The FDA “fast-track” any medicine for Alzheimer’s. However, the appearance of new alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s using precision medicine is likely years away. Even Anavex 2-73 needs to be studied in larger groups of patients before approval. Regardless, research is making tremendous gains in understanding the condition and in identifying risks for Alzheimer’s. For now, the best prevention against Alzheimer’s involves exercise, a healthy diet, and an active mind. Precision medicine holds wonderful promise for many health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.

One day, it might just offer alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that eliminate it for good.

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