November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Based on the latest statistics for 2013, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and someone develops the disease every 68 seconds. Additionally, in 2012 there were 15 million caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Alzheimer’s research is a part of the work taking place at the University of West Florida Center on Aging. Dr. Rodney Guttmann is the center’s director. Guttmann also serves as a board member of Alzheimer’s Family Services and as an Ambassador for the national Alzheimer’s Association.
Guttmann discusses the definition of Alzheimer's, risk factors and on-going research efforts.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is advancing age, and most individuals with the disease are age 65 or older.
Diabetes and head injuries also are identifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
While drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms, currently there is no prevention or cure for the disease.
Much of the scientific research across the globe is focused on trying to identify the disease as early as possible by using biomarkers, such as proteins in blood or spinal fluid, genetic mutations, or brain changes detectable by images.
Using a technique known as biopanning, UWF researchers are using phage-display to analyze blood and CSF samples to identify novel biomarkers linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other neuro-degenerative conditions.
A break-through in identifying biomarkers would be a huge step toward early diagnosis and development of a treatment to prevent or delay onset of Alzheimer's. For more information visit www.uwf.edu/coa; www.alz.org; and www.alzfamserve.org.