Is mainstream science getting anywhere against Alzheimer’s?
October 7th, 2016 by NHI
If you listen to what we’re told by the mainstream news and conventional medical doctors, it often seems like we’re losing the battle to neurological disorders and memory loss.
According to them, there’s a high probability you’re going to get Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, lose your memory, and end up in a nursing home — and it’s all a painful, downhill slope from there.
The real picture is much less bleak. . .
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Alternative and integrative doctors have largely charted a way out of dementia for people who are willing to make lifestyle changes and consider natural treatments. Exercise, healthy blood sugar, plenty of high-quality sleep, a nutritious diet, and selected supplements are preventing and reversing Alzheimer’s today.
But even conventional medicine, with billions of dollars at its disposal, is making significant progress. . .
Here’s an overview of what’s happened in the last 30 years alone:
- 1984: The beta-amyloid protein was identified as the chief component of Alzheimer’s plaques, ushering in an age of intervention studies to understand, prevent and treat these neuron-eating plaques…
- 1986: The tau protein was identified as the key component of tangles, the second hallmark of Alzheimer’s pathology.
- 1987: The amyloid precursor protein (APP) was discovered to increase risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Early 1990s: The fMRI allowed us to make functional maps of the brain, to see not only where cells were in the brain, but how different sections function under real-time stimuli… while PET scanning techniques helped study the neurology of depression…
- 1993: APOE-e4 was discovered as a genetic marker of increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
- 1998: Dr. Bruce McEwen proved that the brain has inherent plasticity… that damaged cells did not mean permanent brain damage… and that the adult brain could indeed undergo neurogenesis, and even adapt and remodel its very architecture.3
- 2000: The Human Genome Project released a complete set of the 23,000 human genes and what they do. (The final draft was released in 2003, with updates since.) These advances are having a huge impact in all areas of medicine.
- 2004: The international Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) was launched, with the intention of building a model of biomarkers that signal Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms begin… and ADNI began building a huge database of genes and DNA samples from volunteers.
- 2006: Optogenetics was introduced by Karl Deisseroth, which allows researchers to turn on and off very specific bundles of neurons, allowing more thorough brain mapping.
- 2008: Personal genetic testing became so inexpensive that kits were released for the mass market. Thanks to sites like 23andme.com, you can now obtain a map of your own genome, at affordable cost.
- 2009: The ADNI reported cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers may help us predict risk and test therapies.
- 2010s: We discovered the huge importance of the gut-brain axis — and that gut bacteria have an enormous influence over your moods, immune system, inflammation, disease state, and more.
- 2011: President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) into law. A national strategic plan to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025 was released in May 2012.
- 2016: The Framingham Heart Study reported dementia is on the decline. In the late 1970s, the rate of dementia was 3.6 people per 100 persons… and has consistently declined to two people per 100 in the early 2010s. That’s a 44% decline over 40 years.4
That’s not to mention the invention of neural implants that provide deep-brain stimulation for those suffering from epilepsy and Parkinson’s…
The discovery of the “housekeeping” glial cells that remove waste during sleep…
The creation of artificial brain cells…
And the ever-growing proof that exercise is dramatically more important than previously thought for preventing disease, so much so that it affects the very structure of the brain.
But what we still don’t know about the brain is both fascinating and daunting… and gives me great hope that we’ll soon hit the goal of preventing, treating and even curing neurological disorders.
Finding Out What We Still Don’t Know
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health described nine specific goals that neuroscientists around the world should collectively focus on, including:
- Get a census on different brain cell types and determine their role in health and disease …
- Map brain circuitry, from the level of synapses to whole brain function…
- Link neural activity to certain behaviors, cognition, emotion, perception, and action in health and disease…
- And identify the fundamental principles of mental processing.5
Experts agree that an understanding of these nine points will greatly advance the treatment of brain disorders.
When you consider that scientists are yet unable to map the 302-neuron circuitry of the simple C. Elegans worm… our 86 billion neuron human brains are overwhelming in comparison.6
The Age of “Big Data” is Driving Brain Research
Another exciting development in the works is known as the Human Brain Project.
By correlating the mountains of data being collected from all over the world, investigators hope to develop a virtual model of the complete human brain.
This will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of a normal, functioning brain and the dysfunction of a diseased or abnormal brain—to find better, more effective treatment.
In one example, researcher Clive Niels Svendsen, a Ph.D. working at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is using this Big Data approach to study amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
By replicating samples of neurons from patients with ALS using induced pluripotent stem cells, Dr. Svendsen and his colleagues are able to study how this genetic deficiency actually becomes the disease.7
The same approach may prove useful in the study of Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s.
It’s a Great Time to be Alive
In short, the world is coming together to create the first real map of the brain… and hopefully, solve the neurological challenges and diseases we all share.
Experts have laid out a path for global scientific effort and governments are coming on board with funding and research access. While much of this funding will feed into the usual pharmaceutical-medical complex, the discoveries are available to all, and functional and integrative doctors will put them to good use.