A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia can be difficult to receive. The neurodegenerative disorder affects one in every six people over the age of 80, and is characterised by memory loss, confusion, difficulty navigating, and other behavioural and functional symptoms.
While the origin of Alzheimer’s is still unknown, we do know that the symptoms are a result of programmed neuronal cell death caused by amyloid beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles forming in the brain.
These misformed protein structures interrupt the communication between neurons, which results in cell death. As these neurons die, it causes disruptions in the supply of blood to regions of the brain, starving them of oxygen, glucose and nutrients.
Studies have shown Cerebral Blood Flow (CBF) to be on average 20% lower in people with Alzheimer’s compared to those without a neurodegenerative disease.
How is Alzheimer’s currently treated?
To this day no cure for Alzheimer’s has been found despite being one of the most heavily researched disorders in the world. Some promising new treatments have been discovered in recent years however they are either still being tested in clinical trials or are inaccessible to the majority of the population.
Most current treatments can be sorted into two categories, those involving medication, and those involving cognitive exercises.
Medications such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and memantine seek to alter neural chemistry in order to give the brain a better fighting chance at holding off degeneration for longer.
Cognitive exercises such as Cognitive Stimulation Therapy act as training for the brain, taking part in problem solving activities, performing everyday tasks, and recalling life events.
Although considerable benefit can be gained from these treatments, until now, treatment specialists have lacked a treatment which directly targets the root causes of Alzheimer’s without the use of medication.