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Dementia Research: Its Progress and Goals

By Daniel @ LivingSenior - April 29, 2012

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Dementia is being continuously researched by many medical professionals, focusing on different aspects of the condition. There are many goals of this time of study and progress, from understanding what exactly causes dementia in each illness it accompanies, as well as discovering ways to potentially reverse or prevent damage it causes to the individual being affected.

While there are many different fields of study in regards to dementia, there are a few heavy hitters:

  • The study of genetic predisposition
  • The behavior and response of neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Factors that promote brain cell death
  • The roles of plaques and other issues found in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Roles of cholesterol metabolism
  • The development of Alzheimer’s
  • The understanding of age-related brain proteins like telomerase

This is obviously a lot to cover, and can be overwhelming to scientists, let alone a lay person trying to discover exactly where progress is in terms of research, as well as what goals we can expect to see achieved in the near future.

Some of the simplest research involves plainly understanding why dementia is so closely paired with protein clumps in cells. The goal is to learn how the clumps form in the first place, how they affect the cells in a negative way, and how this clumping can be prevented within the general population. Understanding these things can greatly aid further, more detailed and difficult research.

Other researchers are looking for genes that may trigger Alzheimer’s that have not yet been discovered. While a number of genes have been identified, there are many other gene regions that are still “suspects” in the development in Alzheimer’s. Since dementia is most closely associated with Alzheimer’s, at least as far as the general public perceives the symptoms, Alzheimer’s research usually takes precedent over other types of research when it comes to media focus.

The goal of finding such genes is that researchers will then be able to receive treatments for dementia and other symptoms that are customized to their personal genetic risks and family history. Unfortunately, such an individualized screening and especially treatment can potentially be many years away.

Finally, studies have shown that people who take stalins (drugs that reduce cholesterol) tend to have a lowered risk of dementia too. But this connection is not really understood very well, and research must continue. Surprisingly to some, HIV patients who experience dementia tend to potentially be one of the easiest people groups to screen and halt further damage caused by dementia in its early stages.

Overall, no matter what underlying illness is causing dementia, scientists are hard at work to determine what can help not only ease symptoms, but stop them altogether. The future is bright for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other progressive diseases that dementia only sadly exacerbates.

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