July 29, 2008 -- More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and 10 million baby boomers are expected to develop it in the coming years, which is why there's so much excitement about research being presented this week at a major conference of Alzheimer's experts.
Dr. Marie Savard, "Good Morning America's" medical contributor, boiled down some of the new developments that will be discussed at the conference.
Alzheimer's can be caused by the build-up of plaque in the brain and by fibrous tangles which wrap around nerve cells in the brain and kill the cells. Previous drugs have attacked the plaque, not very successfully.
A study was published recently that showed a drug called AL 108, which is actually a new type of nasal spray, attacks those fibrous tangles. Patients given AL 108 showed significant improvement in short-term memory after just four weeks and exhibited no side effects.
Testing of the drug is in early phase 2 trials, so a cure is not around the corner, but many researchers are excited about the findings.
To find out about taking part in clinical trials go to www.clinicaltrials.gov.
Researchers at the conference will also present information about a powerful new test to detect Alzheimer's using PET scans.
PET scans have been very useful in detecting early-stage cancer, and researchers hope this new test could detect Alzheimer's as early as 10 years before people show symptoms of the disease, allowing them to begin treatment earlier.
The PET scan tests for Alzheimer's could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in three or four years. PET scans are already widely used in hospitals to test for cancer and other diseases.
These links provide resources to learn about Alzheimer's warning sings and help if you are living with the disease.
Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Among a variety of resources, they have 10 Warning Signs for Alzheimer's.
You can also take an interactive tour to see how Alzheimer's affects the brain.
National Institute on Aging, a branch of the National Institute of Health, offers resources on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, as well as caregiving and research information.
The NIH offers a useful tool to understand the difference between early signs of Alzheimer's from the type of forgetfulness and memory loss associated with aging. Click here to view.
Whether you're living with Alzheimer's or not, Medline Plus has links to basic overviews, research, reference guides, coping mechanisms and news.
Families can check out "Making Choices About Everyday Care" for tips on how to live and treat Alzheimer's disease.
The Alzheimer's Association's 10 Tips for Keeping Your Independence is useful for those living with early stages of Alzheimer's.