Dementias are among the major challenges facing neurology worldwide. According to WHO estimates,, 47.5 million people live with dementia worldwide. “Every four seconds, there is a new case, and each year the number of people it affects increases by around 7.7 million according to WHO data,” Roger Rosenberg, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said at the World Congress of Neurology (WCN 2015). About 3,500 participants are gathered in the Chilean capital Santiago for the world's leading neurology event. “Dementia will be the fastest growing health problem over the next few decades.” Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading form of age-related dementia, responsible for 60 to 70 percent of all dementia disorders. It is a progressive and, in regard to clinical scores, a highly variable disease.
Despite being so widespread, dementia is still dismissed as an inevitable symptom of old age in many instances, even among health professionals. This attitude is clearly reflected in a Chilean study presented at the WCN 2015, in which half of the health professionals included in the survey considered their knowledge of dementia to be inadequate. 53 percent of the physicians surveyed had never prescribed symptomatic pharmacological treatment for dementia. “The data shows that dementia is not widely appreciated as a disease with treatable co-morbidities,” Prof Rosenberg commented.
Alzheimer: Vaccination paves the way to effective prevention
A major focus of the WCN in Santiago is on the prevention and early detection of dementia, particularly AD. With AD, many studies around the world focus on the role of the protein amyloid beta and the increased deposition of amyloids in the brain in the genesis and development of the disease. Some of them are leading in the direction of new therapeutic and preventive approaches such as the possible immunisation against beta-amyloid, which is often referred to as the Alzheimer vaccination.
Prof Rosenberg is set to present his own research at the WCN on a vaccination in which DNA encoding the amyloid beta 42 peptide is injected with the gene gun, a method of transferring large molecules such as DNA into the cell. The injected DNA is translated in the vaccinated person to produce amyloid beta peptide which in consequence triggers immune responses. “Our research shows the effectiveness, safety and potential therapeutic value of the DNA amyloid beta 42 vaccination in individuals at risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” the expert reported.