On the Path to a Cure for Alzheimer’s: Innovative Techniques

On the Path to a Cure for Alzheimer’s: Innovative Techniques

On the Path to a Cure for Alzheimer’s: Innovative Techniques

Alzheimer’s research takes many forms. On the one hand, there is research done about the complicated effects the disease has on the body. On the other hand, there is research being done on how to best care for the people who have it. One area of research that is as equally urgent is research for the cure of this disease, which is responsible for brain deterioration, memory loss, speech and language problems, and a host of other symptoms. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.

This is grim news, especially since there are near 5.7 million people in the United States who are living with Alzheimer’s.[1] Across the world, there is an estimated 45 million people who have the disease.[2] This number is expected to increase dramatically as populations around the world increase. This fact puts pressure on current healthcare resources to find viable solutions to care for more and more cases of the disease. Finding the cure, therefore, is crucial to ensure the livelihoods of millions of people around the world, but it will not be easy.

One new area of research incorporates computational technology, biological research, and crowdsourcing. The Washington Post recently published an article detailing how scientists at the Human Computational Institute in Ithaca, NY are crowdsourcing help to collect data on decreased blood flow in the brains of mice. They are doing so through an innovative technique, by creating an online game that users can play to collect points. Users of the game watch a movie filmed by a multiphoton microscope, which makes possible the filming of living tissue, to find areas of decreased blood flow in these mice.

These areas are thought to be one of the many complicated factors that lead to Alzheimer’s. This is because reduced blood flow across the brain can lead to serious problems, and people with Alzheimer’s have been discovered to have significantly large areas of restricted blood flow in their brains. Users of the game watch these short movies to locate areas where they suspect there is decreased blood flow in certain blood vessels. These areas are normally indicated by dark spots within blood vessels, which may indicate that a blockage exists.

Relying on humans who are not Alzheimer’s researchers has posed no problem so far. According to the Washington Post, human players have been right about 99% of blockages they’ve spotted.[3]

Despite these innovative techniques, it is worth considering the fact that research for the cure has been completely unsuccessful despite the billions of dollars that have been directed toward research, unlike cancer research.[4]  So, finding the cure will continue being difficult. Some experts argue that the biggest immediate impact we can have is delaying the onset of the disease. It is important, then, that investors, policy makes, and healthcare experts prioritize and pursue efforts for both the cure and preventative measures. To direct all of our resources to just one effort would be a disservice to the millions of people who are already living with the disease or who will develop it soon.

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[1] Source: https://www.alz.org/facts/
[2] Source: https://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics
[3] Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/alzheimers-cure-is-being-pursued-with-the-help-of-an-online-game/2018/05/04/f6b93b28-4dff-11e8-af46-b1d6dc0d9bfe_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c7c8b01a8edf
[4] Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/02/13/how-close-are-we-to-a-cure-for-alzheimers/#45b9cd344c9a

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