The researchers claim they have isolated the cause of the brain-wasting disease in the interaction between two proteins in an otherwise healthy brain cell.
The university team managed to stop the interaction happening in mice genetically engineered to develop the disease by injecting a special protein into their brain using special implants.
"We have shown we can prevent the development of Alzheimer's, and that's never been done before," Professor Jurgen Gotz, of the university's Brain and Mind Research Institute, said. "If we can prevent it developing, then there is hope we can find a cure." None of the mice who were treated died, suffered memory loss or had seizures.
That's certainly encouraging--at least for the mice.
So what does all this mean? We must always be cautious, of course, about over-optimism. But at minimum, these reports from around the world remind us that AD research is dynamic, and that discoveries could spill over into treatments for other diseases. The MIT researchers, for example, hope that their findings could also be useful to those suffering from Huntington's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.
So surely we know this much: Trying to shape budget policy now, based on concerns of deficits decades down the road, is a non-starter. That is, if we were to cure Alzheimer's, or even significantly push back its onset, we would have a whole new world of policy options when it comes to retirement and Medicare. Moreover, if we could develop that AD cure here in the US, as opposed to somewhere else in the world, then that new anti-AD medicine will be a huge economic driver for the American economy. As in, jobs, growth, and, yes, tax revenue.
So if--and only if--we push forward on scientific and medical advance, charts such as this one below, from the Social Security Administration trustees , need not worry us too much: The red line below, for Medicare, will not look so threatening if we improve public health. Medicare spending will barely cross six percent of GDP by 2030, so we've got decades to solve the problem before paying the piper becomes a really serious concern. So we had better solve the problem. That will be a lot of work, and we might have to make significant policy changes, but it’s worth the effort, because we are worth the effort.
The bottom line: If we cure AD, a big chunk of our entitlement concerns will go away. Just like that. Technology is the closest thing we will ever get to a free lunch.