Alzheimer's disease unravels the minds of those who get it. It can tear apart the fabric of families that struggle with it. And it costs this nation billions of dollars — an estimated $259 billion per year ($175 billion of that spent by Medicare and Medicaid).
For two decades, scientists have been studying how immunotherapies may help treat the disease. The theory is that antibodies might trigger the brain to destroy a kind of protein that clumps in the brain of patients. The clumps are known as beta-amyloid plaques.
Recently, some large clinical trials of that kind of immuno-therapy have failed.
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine says researchers may be "nearing the end of the amyloid-hypothesis rope."
Dr. Reisa Sperling says not yet. Sperling is director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She's forging ahead studying the treatment of amyloid plaques and is urging people at risk of Alzheimer's to enroll in clinical trials, because she believes the key may lie in catching the disease much earlier.
Sperling spoke to WBUR's All Things Considered host, Lisa Mullins.
This segment aired on February 1, 2018.