More and more of us are affected by Alzheimer's disease every day, and until recently, there has been little hope for a cure. Things are about to change, now that Bill Gates has championed the cause, donating $50 million of his own money to the Dementia Discovery Fund for Alzheimer's research.
According to CNN, Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia today, and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, where a new case is diagnosed every 66 seconds. More than 5 million Americans live with the disease, at a cost of $259 billion a year. Without any treatment, those numbers are projected to explode to 16 million Americans with the disease, at a cost of over $1 trillion a year, by 2050.
Until recently, it's been a challenge to understand the disease, let alone identify who has it. The only way to definitively diagnose Alzheimer's is still after someone has died and their brain can be examined under the microscope, looking for the telltale amyloid plaques and tau tangles. "It's gone slower than we all would have hoped. A lot of failed drug trials," Gates said. In the past five years, advanced imaging technology has allowed us to see tau and amyloid in living people. Gates believes that it will be a combination of mainstream and out-of-the-box thinking that will lead to potential treatments in the near future.