Sometimes Innovation is as Simple as Seeing the Obvious: A Brain Health Breakthrough
Listen to Dianne Carmichael as she sheds light on why Alzheimer’s research has been conducted on males when it is predominantly a female disease and reveals where a new drug process that could prevent the disease, not just arrest it, is being tested.
Innovation is often best ignited by identifying great needs and finding the blinding glimpse of the obvious everyone has missed. Canada’s aging population represents one such enormous opportunity.
Dianne Carmichael, Chair of the Women’s Brain Health Initiative, discusses how we might be able to save millions in healthcare costs and enhance the lives of women by seeing and acting on the obvious.
The Women’s Brain Health Initiative, a Canadian non-profit, is raising funds and working with scientists around the world to extend the body of knowledge on Alzheimer’s and commercialize new discoveries. An area of particular interest is studies using female subjects and tracking the difference in male vs. female brain patterns, and the varying difference in plaque buildup.
Alzheimer’s will add a staggering cost to our healthcare system and inflict terrible pain on thousands of families in the coming years if we don’t quickly find a way to reverse its effect and curb the damage of its incidence. It is particularly prevalent among women. “Almost 70 per cent of new Alzheimer’s sufferers are women. Yet almost all research to date has been conducted on male mice to avoid the very conditions that may make women more susceptible,” says Carmichael.
Until recently, researchers thought the disease was terminal and that most drugs gave only brief, temporary relief. Patients were given palliative care with virtually no hope of reversing the damage.
Now, just as more and more women are being afflicted, we may have a dramatic breakthrough. A potent anti-cancer drug Targretin (Bexarotene), which has been used to treat skin cancer and has a proven safety record with few side-effects, has been shown to be remarkably effective in reversing the effect of Alzheimer’s in mice and may form the basis of a preventive solution.
The study shocked scientists when it dramatically reduced the build-up of poisonous brain plaques that cause Alzheimer’s symptoms and restored the mice’s memory and mental performance within hours. The results suggest that plaque buildup can be reversed in humans, but the study used only male mice in order to eliminate the conditions that make women more susceptible to the disease.
Carmichael’s group is working to fund more research that looks specifically at how the disease affects women. Scientists, however, have cautioned that developing a treatment for humans could take years.
Innovation is sometimes as simple as questioning the obvious or the status quo or wondering if there is another use for a discovery.