Transcript for Senate Special Committee on Aging: Finding an Alzheimer's Cure
Barbara Smith their basement that she is known. But of the first African American models a lifestyle celebrity expert and also restaurant tour. Was once considered the block Martha Stewart. Late last year that it has been revealed that she's been diagnosed with alzheimer's disease but. She's bound flight hello everyone I'm tired Hernandez in New York here was B Smit speaking before the senate special committee on aging earlier today. It's been a tough time for me because. I do have. When early onset. Alzheimer's disease. And I'm here because I want to make though a difference. I'm here because. I don't want anybody else the have to go to group that this. I'm here to ask you to make a difference not just for the five million Americans. Who have alzheimer's in their caregivers but where the future generations. Who faced that. While five million individuals across the US are suffering now the numbers of alzheimer's disease are expected to explode in the future by 2050. It may almost tripled to thirteen point eight million. Joining us now is doctor Richard may you'd co director of the tab institute for alzheimer's research at Columbia University. Good afternoon doctor. B Smith just 65 years old she has what is considered. Early onset alzheimer's and there is no cure is there treatment. Well treatment for early onset alzheimer's disease the same as it is for late onset disease and it you know that current treatments are. Have a have a modest effect at best. They don't really attacks in biology and disease. They seem to treat some symptoms they cannon crew memory to some degree but they're not. And no one our CEO believes the easier defended treatments. How close are we. To it Q or. You let. How close are we to a cure what is what is the goal in terms of research and are we expected to make it. Well. There are hers and an ample amount over search going on to try to identify treatments. And cures. But you have to understand it I think. What we learned in the past decade is an alzheimer's disease a lot more complex. And we imagined. For example. About a a third of patients that alzheimer's disease have. Vascular disease of the brain. There's that brain is very rich has great rich and vascular network. And there are small strokes here vascular pathology throughout the brains even in people with alzheimer's disease. Another third have. I conditioned it's called. Louis bodies which are that this which is it different type of protein inclusion. In the brains so we don't know whether those different pathologies account for the fact that it's been so frustrating. To try new drugs. For this condition. Nevertheless. There are trial's under way. That are. To sign to eliminate. Amyloid. Deposition or at least reduce it. As as a means to treat the condition it does is successful. Then you know things. Are looking very very because there are arrogant drugs. To treat the disease and it may be able to prevent the disease that we can identify who's at risk. A doctor you reach a certain age you start forgetting a few things and and so does do worry hale is this something more serious. How can you tell the difference between. Age related forgetfulness. And alzheimer's disease. Well that's that's been a debate for many years. I always tell everybody I forget where my glasses aren't at that doesn't mean anything. But if I forget. And I'm supposed to be and it had an appointment and this is a repeated behavior. Didn't. Then I start to worry. People everybody's a little forget only get distracted we get press you know we had a maybe a glass why are something we can't you know keep all our facts straight we all remember that name someone under the name and restart at. In a movie. That is an alzheimer's disease alzheimer's disease is his eighth. Continuous. Consistent. Loss at short term memory. Repeating the same question. Asking your spouse where we're supposed to have dinner even though teachers told news five minutes ago. And that's the initial set of symptoms and that it. Goes on to include other cop and it behaviors such as you know. Doing simple math and and trying to express oneself an earlier manners so these kinds of additional symptoms. Can occur as disease progresses. When we hear statistics. Likely cases are expected to triple in just a number of decades. Is that simply because we have baby boomers sat aging in two. The you know the typical late in the disease or is it just growing in the general. Population. Well I think you hit on it right point. The number of people that most rapid growing part of our society. Right now are people. You know a lower 65 fact people over eighty are probably rapidly growing part of our society and that's just about it every. Part of the developed world. Where. The number people in the older age groups are increasing now. That puts them into the risque H. The amount of people that then we'll have the disease will invariably increase unless something about it so it is possible that would then. Ten years or so. That will have doubled in amber patience we had now San estimates are even higher. This is also true for the developing world where. Because life expectancy is increasing. Countries that used to be worried about living. Into their sixties are now living doings oh. And they also are faced with an increasing aged population. Which will be similarly at risk for alzheimer's. Finally doctor I want to ask you about B Smith as such an intelligent and accomplished woman really heartbreaking to hear what she's been going through with this disease. What hope day she have. At this stage. Is there hope for her of people suffering from this disease today that in their life time. They would get some relief. Well I I can't address you know. Hers specifically I don't know all the details that what I can't say. It's an amazing amount effort under way sponsored by the national institute hell. There's a sense of collaboration and cooperation amongst scientists then. In my career which now stands almost thirty years I'd never seen before we all had a sense of urgency. Net we need to do something we need to it quickly. And so I'm I'm hopeful. That we will. Be able to crack this disease or at least make it dents in it sometime over the next few years. That sent. I think. That our congress really niece to its vest heavily. And helping us solve this problem that doesn't mean taking away money from other important health problems but. And NIH has always Dan. The leader or at biomedical. Research in the world. And this is not a time to cut back on funding and support for biomedical research we have to crack this problem the world is looking for us to do that. All right doctor may I want to thank you so much for joining us obviously this is a disease that affects many generations. Thank you. Thank you so much you can keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news app and starring the story for exclusive updates on the untie Hernandez in New York.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.