Researchers have made a breakthrough in treating Alzheimer’s disease — but treatment needs to happen before symptoms begin, the New York Post reports.
A new paper published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia details new understanding of how the disease develops, which can start as long as a decade before someone begins losing their memory.
The researchers found evidence that the disease begins when brain neurons start to divide, which is unusual after birth. The neurons die, beginning a process that leads to the formation of plaques in the brain.
Early intervention is key here, according to the lead researcher. “It is my opinion that we will never be able to cure Alzheimer’s disease by treating patients once they become symptomatic,” says George Bloom, a University of Virginia professor and chair of the school’s department of biology, in a statement.
But with this new knowledge about how the disease begins, researchers think there may be a preventive treatment: metamine, an FDA-approved medication with minimal side effects. Researchers think patients with biomarkers for Alzheimer’s, but none of the symptoms yet, could take it to ward off the disease.
“Perhaps this could prevent the disease or slow its progression long enough that the average age of symptom onset could be significantly later, if it happens at all,” Bloom says.