“Hi-yo, Silver! Away!,” exclaimed the masked hero, the Lone Ranger, as he rode off on his fiery horse, in a cloud of dust, with Tonto by his side. His trademark, a silver bullet, was left behind as a reminder that good things do happen to those who believe. “The Lone Ranger” was a popular TV show from 1949-1957. I was a fan as a child.
I looked up the meaning of the “silver bullet” symbol. It represents an action which cuts through the complexity of a problem and provides an immediate solution. It is a direct and ultimate fix. References to the use of “silver bullets” date from the late seventeenth century. In the early nineteenth century, the belief was that a silver bullet was the only way to kill evil, supernatural beings, werewolves, witches, the Devil, and other uncanny creatures.
Over 4,000 leading global Alzheimer’s researchers and interested parties from sixty-five countries met in Washington, D.C., July 18-23, for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC). Scientists and participants came to share the latest findings, clinical trials, and new hypotheses about the disease. Unfortunately, their conclusion was that, to date, there are no tests available that can predict the risk of someone getting the disease, or accurately detecting Alzheimer’s in a living person.
Researchers, however, are getting closer to understanding the cause. They are looking specifically at amyloid plaques that build up in the spaces between brain nerve cells (neurons), causing these neurons to die. There was mixed excitement and some scepticism among conference participants about current studies and clinical trials of two experimental drugs: Solanezumab (“sola” for short) and Aducanumab. If used early enough in the disease continuum, these drugs target the plaque buildup. They might also be able to slow declines in cognition, memory and function.
On Wednesday, July 22, The Diane Rehm Show, on National Public Radio, featured an interview with three Alzheimer’s researchers. Doctor Murali Doraiswamy, of Duke University, noted that there is no “silver bullet” yet in terms of an Alzheimer’s cure. More clinical trials are needed before these and other drugs can prove to be effective enough to go to market. He forecasts that it may take three to four more years of further testing.
How do these clinical trials impact you and me? Clinical trials need to be ongoing. A projected seventy-six million people worldwide are expected to live with dementia by 2030. Study candidates are needed for the international A4 Study (www.a4study.org). Ten thousand individuals between 65 and 86 years old, in general good health, with no memory loss symptoms, are needed right now for this study. There are research sites in the US, Canada, and Australia. I am seriously thinking about becoming a candidate. My family suspects that our maternal grandmother had the disease. We know for certain that Mom had Alzheimer’s because of her autopsy results. I sometimes wonder if I will be next in the family.
AAIC workshops also explored risk factors, the need for changes in lifestyle, diet, sleep habits, and physical exercise, as well as the prevalence of Alzheimer’s among women and minorities. You and I may need to take a critical look at our own risk factors for getting Alzheimer’s. We may have to “bite the bullet” when it comes to some unhealthy practices in our lifestyles. I will be covering these risk factors in future blogs. Please continue to follow along and share my blog.
What I heard in the news, and have read from the AAIC conference reports give me hope that a silver bullet to knock out and cure Alzheimer’s might just come in my lifetime! Kudos and thanks to all the clinical researchers and volunteers who continue to look for answers to defeat this horrible disease. Hi-yo, researchers, go for it!
I wish you peace, patience, and courage in your caregiving!
* * *
You can listen to Susan Page’s full interview from the Diane Rehm Show here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-07-22/the-latest-on-diagnosing-treating-and-preventing-alzheimers
* * *
The theme song for “The Lone Ranger” TV show was taken from Gioacchino Rossini’s “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” from the finale to his “William Tell Overture.” You can listen to Andre Rieu direct the Johann Strauss Orchestra here: https://youtu.be/533oFxCtSJo