“Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped” is the title of a recent PBS nova documentary that follows multiple research teams on their quest to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In my last post on the subject, titled "We Can Cure Alzheimer’s Disease," that was the message of hope left me by Samuel Cohen a young research scientist at Cambridge University in England. This remarkable hour-long documentary significantly amplifies that sense of hope.
The signature identifier for Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of what are known as plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaques are a buildup of "sticky" beta-amyloid proteins that buildup between nerve cells and disrupt or block synaptic signals. This causes a progressive communication breakdown. Tangles are twisted strands of a protein called Tau which buildup in nerve cells themselves and cause them to die.
The researchers in this documentary focused their attention on destroying and removing plaque buildup. Although the goal is to find an eventual cure for Alzheimer’s, at this early stage stopping the progression is considered a big win.
I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary and learned some new things. New imaging techniques are now able to detect the buildup of plaques and tangles as much as 20 years before the onset of symptoms. Catching it at such an early stage gives the afflicted individual an opportunity to slow the progression much sooner. And that seems possible with today’s medications.
The documentary did a good job of providing insight into how big Pharma research scientists operate and what motivates them. (Profit of course!) And also did an excellent job of showing the human side of Alzheimer’s, in particular the struggles of an extended family from Medellín, Columbia who suffer from a rarer genetic form of Alzheimer’s.
I don’t want to give away too much detail as I heartily recommend you watch it yourself. It’s one hour-long and holds your attention from beginning to end. So grab some popcorn and a soda and make yourself comfortable on the couch!