The many fronts in the Alzheimer's war

Scientists are experimenting with various approaches to turn back the progress of Alzheimer's Disease, some involving naturally occurring compounds such as Vitamin E, others involving experimental pharmaceuticals, while some are investigating the impact of exercise. All of these potential aids in treating memory loss and Alzheimer's can be employed to increase the likelihood of success.

By SUSAN ASCHOFF, Times Staff Writer
Published June 27, 2004

Some researchers suspect no silver bullet exists to stop this complex disease, so research is being carried out in areas as diverse as drugs, vaccines and stem cells.

The former first lady has always had a bare-knuckled determination to take care of her man. So a month before Ronald Reagan's death from Alzheimer's disease, Nancy Reagan spoke publicly for the first time in favor of stem cell research, breaking ranks with many in her husband's political party, including President Bush.

Scientists want no avenue of research closed to them. But many believe the answers to the devastating brain disease will come from other directions.

More than 50 drugs are in the pipeline. And in laboratories from Tampa to Reagan's home state, California, work proceeds on potential vaccines, chemical blockers and clues provided by genetically altered mice.

Almost a dozen "mechanistically distinct approaches" are under way, says David Morgan, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

"I don't think cell therapy is going to be (the first) treatment to slow progress of Alzheimer's disease," Morgan says, and others agree. "I think any of these others are going to be developed in the next five years." Alzheimer's disease compromises the brain's function as computer and chemical factory. Connections between cells are lost, neurons die, and a protein called amyloid builds up between cells while other protein tangles within them. The resultant mess is daunting, but its complexity provides multiple targets for intervention. >>more>>

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