With the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, about 5.5 million, expected to triple by 2050, this illness imposes a staggering societal and economic toll on the nation. Research!America invited experts in medical research, public health and disease advocacy to discuss how recent insights in Alzheimer's research shed new light on the prevention and treatment of this devastating condition during an October 5 Capitol Hill Briefing titled “From Discovery to Delivery: Research at Work in Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Although federal funding for Alzheimer's remains strong, the panel discussed the difficulties of translating research into clinical practice when Alzheimer's goes long undetected before massive nerve cell loss leads to physical and cognitive decline. Though a cure may be far off, panelists reiterated that prevention should be a major public health focus.
“We have to teach people that they are responsible for their own health,” urged Rosebud Roberts, M.D., Ch.B., chair of the Mayo Clinic Division of Epidemiology, noting that lifestyle choices increase Alzheimer's risk. Richard Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging, and Michael Irizarray, M.D., MPH, vice present of early clinical development, neurosciences, Eli Lilly, emphasized that monitoring non-symptomatic but high-risk individuals may reveal early biomarkers of the illness and provide insights into the molecular basis of disease progression.
Other panelists included Julie Zissimopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and Shawn Taylor, founder and President of VeteransAgainstAlzheimers. The panel was moderated by Robert Egge, chief public policy officer and executive vice president of government affairs, Alzheimer’s Association.