How Close Are We to a Cure for Alzheimer’s?

Q. I just found out that my favorite Aunt, Norma, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I was heartbroken at first, but am optimistic that with all the research being conducted, we could be close to a cure. Sure enough, this morning I was on Facebook and saw a post about a study where memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s was reversed in humans. Have you heard anything about this or other similar studies, and do you think it sounds promising?

A. Since it was first described over 100 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease has been without an effective treatment.  However, researchers are working tirelessly to translate research advances into improved diagnosis and care for people with Alzheimer’s disease, while focusing on the long-term goal of finding a  cure and possibly preventing Alzheimer’s.

Below are two recent studies that I have read about, with the first one probably being the one you referenced in your question:

  • Participants: 10 participants, who had problems with memory and disorientation. Six of the patients had discontinued working or had been struggling at their jobs at the time they joined the study.
  • Description: Researchers used a 36-point therapeutic program that involved comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimization, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.  The patient in treatment the longest has been receiving the therapy for two-and-a-half years.  Bredesen’s approach is personalized to the patient and may include:
    • eliminating all simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food from the patient’s diet, and eating more vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish
    • meditating twice a day and beginning yoga to reduce stress
    • sleeping seven to eight hours per night
    • taking melatonin, methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and coenzyme Q10 each day
    • optimizing oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush
    • reinstating hormone replacement therapy which had previously been discontinued
    • fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime
    • exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, four to six days per week
  • Findings: Nine of 10 participants showed marked improvement in their memories beginning within three to six months. In addition, all six patients who had discontinued working, or had been struggling at their jobs, were able to return to their jobs or continue working with improved performance, and their improvements have been sustained. One patient who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer’s did not improve. Dr. Bredesen said the findings are “very encouraging,” but he added that the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed.

Study 2-  Ashwagandha, an herbal remedy that’s been used in Eastern medicines for centuries

Muraleedharan Nair, a chemist at Michigan State University, has created a botanical compound, withanamides, which incorporates an herbal remedy called Ashwagandha.

  • Participants: So far, it has only been tested on mice, but clinical trials on humans are anticipated.
  • Description: Alzheimer’s begins when a specific protein starts breaking and producing unwanted fragments that put stress on a cell’s membrane, spark plaque formation, and eventually kills the cell. This attack begins in the frontal lobe, erasing memories and continuing deeper into the brain. The compound in this study was created to keep the bad protein from entering the cell where it does its damage.
  • Findings: Nair and his collaborators found that withanamides protected mouse brain cells from beta amyloid protein (BAP) damage and passed the blood brain barrier, the filter that controls which chemicals reach the brain. The results showed that the compound reached its intended target, passing the last test before advancing to human testing.  While plants cannot be patented, compounds from it can. Michigan State University holds the patent for withanamides, and earlier research revealed that the compound, found in the plants’ seeds, proved to be a powerful anti-oxidant — double the strength of what’s on today’s market. The potent compound has shown that it can protect cells against damaging attacks by a rogue protein – which is what happens in the early stage of Alzheimer’s.

There are many more research studies being conducted and, like you, I am hopeful that these studies will yield a breakthrough soon. For more details on Alzheimer’s research, visit Please also follow us on Twitter (@ElderLawExpert), as we post about new research and breakthroughs often. Please also read our blog post, “Is Alzheimer’s in Your Future?,” for additional details on strides that are being made in treatment and prevention of the disease.

Medicaid Planning for Alzheimer’s

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is life-changing for both diagnosed individuals and those close to them.  While it’s never easy to think about, if you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s imperative to make an appointment with a Certified Elder Law Attorney such as myself, to determine who to name to make legal, financial, and medical decisions when your loved one is no longer able to do so. In addition, if your loved one hasn’t done so already, it is also of utmost importance to determine how he or she will pay for long-term care without financially bankrupting the family.

Medicaid Asset Protection

People with Alzheimer’s live on average four to eight years after they’re diagnosed, but some may live 20 years beyond their initial diagnosis. Do you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s? Persons with Alzheimer’s and their families face special legal and financial needs. At Farr Law Firm, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones.  If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia or memory loss, we can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs.  We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. Call us at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax, at 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg, at 301-519-8041 in Rockville, MD, or at 202-597-4847 in Washington, DC to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.