WEDNESDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Research into Alzheimer's disease has reached a point of significant potential, even as the disease's looming impact on society grows more and more dire, experts say.
Some leading scientists, in fact, worry that we may not be doing enough to press forward with key advances and new insights into Alzheimer's, the most common type of dementia among older people.
An estimated 5.3 million U.S. residents have the disease, which results from the deterioration of nerve cells in the brain and leads to memory loss, impaired judgment, wandering and, as it progresses, to the inability to perform such normal daily functions as dressing, bathing and eating.
As the population ages, the number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to spike dramatically. Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's every 70 seconds, according to the Alzheimer's Association -- a number expected to rise to once every 33 seconds in a few decades.
Scientists researching early detection and treatment for the disease, though, say they are on the verge of substantial advances.
Despite some disappointments, a large slate of Alzheimer's drugs are undergoing human trials, said Dr. John C. Morris, a professor and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology.
"There has never been a period in which we had more potential drugs to alter the disease course of Alzheimer's," Morris said. "We have lots of highly promising drug candidates."
The drugs focus mostly on amyloid, a protein that clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
"Many scientists believe eliminating that accumulation will eliminate Alzheimer's," said William H. Thies, chief medical and science officer for the Alzheimer's Association. "We've seen amyloi
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