What if it were possible to reverse the effects of dementia? What would a world look like for the aged if scientists were able to undo the adverse effects of this disease on their brain? And what if we could use this treatment to prevent people with a predisposition to dementia from experiencing the full set of symptoms associated with the disease? For those caring for the elderly experiencing symptoms of dementia, and for the families of these loved ones, this could be a golden ticket.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for the loss of capacity in cognitive function, behavioural control, and emotional regulation. For many elderly adults, these symptoms become severe enough to interfere with their ability to live independently. Of the many different types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is the most common type found in older adults.
Dementia attacks the neurons in the brain, causing them to lose connection to other brain cells and die. Whilst everyone suffers from a degree of neuron loss as they age, those with dementia experience it to a far greater degree. The cause of dementia is unknown, however current thinking seems to point to several different diseases as a potential cause. Nevertheless, scientists believe that a build-up of certain proteins in the brain interferes with its normal functioning is the way dementia develops.
Depending on the type of dementia a patient is experiencing, it is possible that some dementia symptoms can be reversed. In a recent study, scientists have found that specifically targeting brain inflammation has demonstrated great signs in treating the disease. They believe that Alzheimer’s Disease could be because of a breakdown in the barrier between the brain and the blood that functions as the brain’s filtration system, thereby letting chemicals seep into the brain which then triggers inflammation in the brain. By age 70, approximately 60% of people experience the blood-brain barrier breakdown, so this could be a significant scientific breakthrough.
In this study, scientists developed a drug (known as IPW) and it works by blocking a certain brain receptor that generates inflammation-causing blood protein. In prior experiments with aged mice, the experiments showed a reduction in the inflammation of their brain. Additionally, the brains of the aged mice functioned more like much younger mice, and they were able to do such things as relearn spatial tasks and successfully navigate a maze. Researchers also hope that not only will this drug help patients suffering from dementia, but it may also help patients recovering from brain injuries, concussions, and strokes.
Yet this is not the only scientific study that has shown encouraging results. Scientists have also seen success by using electromagnetic wave treatment via a fitted headcap for patients suffering mild to moderate dementia. These caps, worn for two hours each day for two months, seemed to reverse the symptoms experienced by these patients.
Studies such as these gives great hope for those caring for the elderly and those suffering from dementia. We already have the technology to scan brains for abnormal activity and inflammation in the blood-brain barrier, so it is possible that we could see active and preventative treatment of dementia in our lifetime. With hundreds of millions of elderly people around the world, being able to effectively treat dementia could be one of the greatest breakthroughs in medical history and of ground-breaking importance to our society.
Are you thinking of working in the aged care sector? Call us today at Yorke Institute on (03) 9042 0231 or click through to our CHC43015 Certificate IV in Ageing Support to find out more about our programs in aged care that produce nationally qualified and highly sought-after graduates. You could be eligible for government funding.