There is admittedly a lot we don’t know about Alzheimer’s. 100 years after its discovery, we still don’t know exactly what causes this neurodegenerative disease and we do not have a cure. However, it is important not to lose sight of how far we have come since Dr. Alois Alzheimer noted the unique symptoms in 1906.
1906: Alzheimer’s Disease is first described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in his patient known only as Auguste D. The patient experienced memory loss, paranoia, and psychological changes. Dr. Alzheimer noted in the autopsy that there was shrinkage in and around nerve cells in her brain.
1931: The electron microscope is invented by Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska, allowing magnification up to 1 million times. This invention allowed scientists to study brain cells with greater detail.
1968: Cognitive measurement scales are created which allows researchers to measure impairment and estimate the volume of damaged brain tissue.
1974: Congress establishes the National Institute on Aging (NIA). To this day, the NIA supports Alzheimer’s research.
1983: November of 1983 was declared the first National Alzheimer’s Disease Month indicating a greater awareness of the disease.
1984: The NIA begins to fund Alzheimer’s Disease Centers and establishes a nationwide network for Alzheimer’s research.
1993: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first Alzheimer’s drug, Cognex. The drug targets memory loss and dementia symptoms. Today, there are a total of five drugs approved to treat Alzheimer’s.
1994: Former President of the United States Ronald Reagan announces that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This leads to greater awareness about the disease.
2003: The NIA begins a National Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic Study to hopefully identify risk genes for the disease.
2010: Alzheimer’s becomes the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
2011: President Barack Obama signs the National Alzheimer’s Project Act which provides a national framework to support and fund Alzheimer’s research.
2013: The G8 Dementia Summit in the United Kingdom launches an international effort to fight Alzheimer’s and find a cure by 2025.
We still have a lot of work ahead of us in the fight against Alzheimer’s. It’s important to reflect on the past 100 years as we look ahead to the next 100 years and continue to fund and support research initiatives.