• By Dana Sparks

Science Saturday: Mayo’s approach to untangling Alzheimer’s

November 11, 2017

Families living with Alzheimer's disease woke to devastating newspaper headlines recently: Another highly touted drug failed in clinical trials.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly's EXPEDITION3 trial tested an antibody, a molecule used by the immune system to fight off disease, called solanezumab.

This experimental drug sought to remove harmful proteins in the brain that become building blocks for amyloid, a molecular hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Like a garden mildew that deprives a leaf of key nutrients, amyloid proteins form into sticky clumps of plaque that kill brain cells, preventing the formation of new memories.

Not faulting the drugmaker for its efforts, media reports of the trial results nevertheless expressed varying degrees of desperation, revealing the high stakes nature of finding a true cure for Alzheimer's disease. Without an effective intervention, the number of Americans age 65 and older living with Alzheimer's is estimated to nearly triple, from 5.2 million today to 13.8 million in 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Meanwhile, U.S. health care costs related to the disease are expected to increase by 360 percent to more than $1 trillion, putting Medicare, Medicaid and the global economy in a vice grip.
Despite the setbacks and statistics, one person maintaining his optimism is Mayo neurologist Ronald C. Petersen, M.D., Ph.D. In addition to directing the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Dr. Petersen has been appointed to numerous national and international advisory boards charged with finding an answer to what he calls the defining disorder of our generation.

With that insider perspective, Dr. Petersen has a clear message for patients and families who read the latest Alzheimer's news with trepidation: Don't give up hope. Read the rest of the article on Advancing the Science.

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