Scientists are taking a novel approach in the testing of potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease through the use of stem cells.
The scientific and medical communities have found it slow-going in their attempts to stave the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or in developing improved methods to treat the disease once it’s been diagnosed. Nearly all testing begins with animals, but that has proven to be far from ideal when it comes to research for Alzheimer’s disease treatments because such testing in animals isn’t a reliable predictor for how humans with the condition will respond.
This is where the use of stem cells comes in. Researchers at a number of institutions including the University of California in San Diego and at Harvard, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are developing methods for the study of potential Alzheimer’s disease treatments without the use of animals or humans by using stem cells. The stem cells can be manipulated to develop into different specialized cells; for this research, the stem cells morph into neurons that have the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.
In early research using stem cells in this manner, two experimental drugs have already been subjected to such “in vitro” testing – a method that scientists are hopeful will save both time and money in the clinical trial portions of drug research.
Alzheimer's disease is financially devastating – if we don't change something, the total cost of the disease will exceed $1 trillion by 2050
The potential of this stem cell approach to testing potential treatments is just beginning to be explored. The important of saving time and money in the development of successful Alzheimer’s disease treatment – both critical issues in bringing any treatment to market and into the hands of those in need – should not be underestimated. Current estimates put the cost of Alzheimer’s disease at $200 billion per year in the United States alone, with a predicted price tag of $1 trillion per year by 2050 unless science can intervene.
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