Leora Horn, BSc, MSc
Over three hundred thousand Canadians currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease (AD) and the related dementias. AD is a degenerative disorder associated with a progressive decline in cognitive function. There is significant neuronal loss and impairment of metabolic activity in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and subcortical structures affecting memory, language and emotion. At present, there are limited drugs used to treat the symptoms associated with the disease but there is no cure. In a recent Nature publication, Schenk et al., reported results that take the treatment of AD in a new direction by raising the possibility of vaccination as prevention against disease development. In two separate sets of experiments scientists were able to prevent the occurrence or reduce the presence of Alzheimer-like pathology in genetically engineered mice immunized with one of the proteins that may be responsible for disease evolution.1
According to the Alz-heimer's Association of Canada, AD is the fourth leading cause of death in adults. The prevalence of AD increases exponentially with age. AD affects 1 in 100 Canadians between the ages of 65 and 74, 1 in 14 Canadians between the ages of 75 and 84 and 1 in 4 Canadians over 85. Symptoms of AD range from forgetfulness to disorientation to people, time and place resulting in an inability to function without assistance.