Alzheimer’s and dementia

Science Cafe New Hampshire occasionally tackles difficult topics, and this month, we examine the human mind during our session on Alzheimer’s and dementia. On Wednesday night, Science Cafe will again host a public discussion, and you are invited to join.

Aging is the issue that binds us together. No matter your color, religion, sex, orientation, age, education or height, if you are reading this, you are aging. And aging seems to have predictable phases: first, school years; then, marriage; kids; grandchildren; retirement; and a peaceful ride into the sunset. But along the way, we slow down a bit, multi-process less and perhaps get more forgetful than we once were. We join the club of “Where are my glasses?,” “Who moved my car keys” and even “Why did I come into this room?” It’s not funny, but then it doesn’t seem to be abnormal either.

Yet memory loss is no laughing matter. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegerative disease, meaning it involves the disease and dying of neurons. There are more than 100 kinds of dementia. At this point, these are not well understood afflictions and are estimated to impact more than 50 million people worldwide. As medicine and science extend life expectancy, we can expect this number to rise and the social burden to grow.

These diseases are slow and evolving. They can involve years of decline and put incredible stress on family, friends and especially the person affected. Memory loss is cruel and robs people of their freedom, their finances and their dignity. Few among us would want a body that outlives the mind, but that is the harsh reality for those suffering from dementia-related illness.

But research holds some hope. There is now a diversity of drugs in the development pipeline that hold promise for both treatment and prevention. Innovative analytics and tools are emerging, such as biomarkers, that allow for better identification and diagnosis of disease while also facilitating the drug development process. New, preventive strategies have been developed and are now in trial testing that would enable drugs to prevent or arrest disease progression. And progress is being made on neuronal regeneration or the ability to regrow neurons and “heal” affected areas, although this research is still very early stage.

While we associate Alzheimers and dementia with the elderly, that is not always the case. Early Onset Alzheimers begins in the 30s, 40s and 50s, and more than 200,000 people suffer from it today. These diseases can affect almost anyone, beginning in their early adult years.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s and related memory-loss diseases take a terrible toll on families, caregivers, spouses, friends and society.

Science Cafe is proud to host a panel of experts who will explain these diseases and help us understand where current research is at and what treatment breakthroughs we might expect to see in the future.

As always, Science Cafe is free, open to the public and offers a place where the community can engage in civil discourse, talk science, have a beer, learn from each other and enjoy a safe haven for the geeks among us. Come join the conversation!

Science Cafe is hosted at the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar. You can learn more about Science Cafe New Hampshire at www.ScienceCafeNH.org.

Dan Marcek is co-founder of Science Café New Hampshire and can be reached at dan@vetflix.org.