Alzheimer’s disease: researchers issue call for help

  • Top-level researchers are appealing for a major investment plan
  • “This is a disease. We need to find a drug for it.”

To date, in a country with 130,000 people affected by Alzheimer’s, no drug has yet been invented that can reverse the course of the disease. A few treatments are able to temporarily stabilize this disease that causes progressive neuronal loss. This situation brings with it great suffering not only for the patient, but also for those close to him.

Now, top-level researchers are requesting the creation of a special plan that would finance research, just like in the case of cancer. “No medical problem is accepted with more resignation than dementia. The slow loss of memory, and the silently erased personality that leaves behind the solitude of a blank stare. Are brain illnesses taboo? Is there a taboo surrounding older people? How is it that so few people fight back against this feeling of resignation? Imagine what would happen if when someone got cancer, AIDS, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, we just told them that they have to learn to live with their disease?” complains Professor Jean-Noël Octave, Alzheimer’s specialist at the UCL Neuroscience Institute.

Along with his colleague Bart De Strooper of KUL (Catholic University of Leuven) and the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology, he has appealed to the political world to free up enough funds to conduct research into this illness in order to conquer it one day soon. “Dementia is not an inevitability of old age. It’s a syndrome caused by biochemical disruptions inside the brain. Once these disruptions reach the motor centers of the brain, they cause paralysis. When they reach the thinking and memory areas of the brain, they cause dementia. Dementia then is the consequence of malfunctions that can be studied. Once we have enough understanding of these disruptions, we will be able to intervene either by changing our lifestyle or through the use of effective medication,” promises Octave.

“What’s going on? The present debate focuses on the acceptance of this ‘inevitability’ and on the pessimistic outlooks that are predicting more and more costly treatments. These debates, of course, are necessary. I participate in patient family association scientific councils. We also need to treat Alzheimer’s disease like a syndrome against which we must fight, just as we fight against cancer.

Our hope is that those who are close to the patients, just like those who are close to cancer patients, will put pressure on the relevant authorities. The funds that have been raised by the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation only allow a few, very low cost projects – in other words, almost nothing. For the last few decades, we have been investing in cancer research. We know much more about cancer than about dementia. It’s time to open large-scale scientific debates on dementia in order to make research a priority. We need to refuse to allow Alzheimer’s to be a horrific unavoidability. Nowadays, Alzheimer’s patients die twice. First, when the disease reaches a human being’s essential functions, slowly isolating him, and a second time when he passes away some years later.”

FRÉDÉRIC SOUMOIS

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