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Will There Ever Be a Cure for Dementia?
Dementia is one of those diseases which raises a lot of questions and misunderstandings, whether you are a patient or a carer.
Unlike other diseases that usually have a natural progression, dementia has no set frame. With so much of the physical, emotional, and financial pain, the disease inflicts, the desire for a cure becomes paramount.
This question has consistently caused a stir in the medical research community, and people are already trying desperately to find the answers to many questions for dementia.
Many types of research have been done and are still ongoing to find out the cure for it. Some have shown quite encouraging results, but a specific cure is yet to found by the medical community.
Before moving to the treatment aspects of the disease, let’s talk about recognized preventive strategies that are put forth so far.
Controlling the Risk Factors for Dementia
It is advised that if you have any of the risk factors like a positive family history of dementia, uncontrolled chronic conditions (like diabetes and heart conditions), an excessive drinking habit, high BMI (Body Mass Index), or a sedentary lifestyle, then your chances of having dementia are increased.
These factors have been recognized also to escalate the progression of dementia.
Some of the factors mentioned above are non-modifiable ones that you can’t do much to change (like genetic predilection), but others can be quite manageable.
Furthermore, lifestyle modification strategies like having a healthy diet, doing regular exercise, stimulation of cognitive abilities, maintaining good sleep hygiene all have been quite effective in slowing the progression of the disease.
Although you can’t reverse the progression of dementia, modifying lifestyle habits can have a positive effect on slowing further progression.
The symptoms of dementia appear long before the onset of actual disease. By closely monitoring people in the high-risk group and doing relevant preventive measures, by the healthcare provider, the symptoms of dementia can be lowered to a minimum.
Specific scans, i.e., PET scans and examination of brain activities can be beneficial in screening for the high-risk groups as well as to evaluate the progression of the disease.
The treatment for dementia consists of many different types of treatments being proposed, which I will discuss below.
Stem cells reprogramming
Scientists are actively looking at the option of altering the “programming” of the brain. The stem cell is considered as the “building block” of cells.
These stem cells, when triggered in the labs, evolve into brain cells. Scientists are now thinking to replace these cells somehow with the defective cells and make the person free from dementia.
Although it might work only in specific types of dementia, e.g., Alzheimer’s dementia, it can further be modified for other types of dementia as well.
The natural defense system of the body can be strengthened in order to fight off the disease in a better way.
In certain types of dementia, i.e., Alzheimer’s, there is a buildup of a specific protein plaque, termed as “beta-amyloid” This weakens the body’s fighting capability against the disease.
Scientists suggest that this buildup of beta-amyloid proteins is controlled by boosting the defense system; it can help in the progression of the disease.
A vaccine is also being developed in this regard, to fight off these proteins and to increase the body’s immunity, but that is still in the trial phase.
There have been some studies done that showed very encouraging results by different medications in slowing the progression of dementia.
Currently, approved medical treatment focuses on symptoms rather than slowing the progression of the disease. One of the frequently used drugs is Memantine (Also known as Ebixa). It acts by blocking the action of excess glutamate, which is a chemical released by the destruction of the brain caused by Alzheimer’s.
There are different drugs that are researched recently. Aducanumab is one such drug that has been very effective in slowing down the deterioration in memory as well as the cognition impairment that occurs in dementia.
Another drug still in research is BAN2401, which targets amyloid bodies that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Research has shown a marked decrease in symptoms of Alzheimer’s by the use of this drug.
Cholinesterase Inhibitors, Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (rivastigmine), and Razadyne (galantamine) have also shown effectiveness in the treatment of mild to moderate dementia.
The phytochemical compounds, including antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloidogenic compounds, have protective properties on the brain.
Research has shown that these compounds have profound effects on decreasing symptoms of dementia due to the protective effect they exhibit on the brain cells.
Some of the researches have shown music therapy to be effective in slowing the symptoms of dementia. The exact mechanism is yet to be explored, but various theories are being put forward and are researched upon.
In conclusion, so far, there is no recognized modality too sure dementia. There are many theories and researches being conducted currently, but definitive treatment is yet to come.
Many of the strategies mentioned in this article can be helpful in the prevention and slowing progression of the symptoms of the disease. But it has to be a multidisciplinary team effort in managing dementia, and there is no “one size fits all solution.”
- Chalfont, G., Milligan, C., Simpson, J., Shukla, Y., & Venkateswaran, V. (2018). Whole Systems Dementia Treatment: An Emerging Role in the NHS? Morecambe Bay Medical Journal, 8(2), 58-61.
- Giacoppo, S., Soundara Rajan, T., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. (2016). Natural phytochemicals in the treatment and prevention of dementia: An overview. Molecules, 21(4), 518.
- Burckhardt, M., Herke, M., Wustmann, T., Watzke, S., Langer, G., & Fink, A. (2016). Omega‐3 fatty acids for the treatment of dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).
- Nason, A. R. (2016). Non-pharmacological management in dementia: Music therapy.
- Kales, H. C., Gitlin, L. N., & Lyketsos, C. G. (2015). Assessment and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. BMJ, 350, h369.