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'Hope on the horizon,' says Bill Gates on World Alzheimer's Day

'Hope on the horizon,' says Bill Gates on World Alzheimer's Day

'Hope on the horizon,' says Bill Gates on World Alzheimer's Day
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By CNBCTV18.com Sept 21, 2021 6:57:38 PM IST (Published)

Billionaire philanthropist speaks of the new breakthroughs in diagnostics that are being conducted through Diagnostic Accelerator, a venture that raises philanthropic capital for research in this field. One such research is being conducted on a simple blood test format.

New breakthroughs in diagnostics will soon alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders in the world, said American business magnate Bill Gates.

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“World Alzheimer’s Day is an inspiring reminder that hope is on the horizon,” Gates wrote in his blog. World Alzheimer's Day is observed on September 21.
One of the major challenges is finding the right people for clinical trials, he said in the blog. For developing a treatment, clinical trials need to be conducted on participants with early onset of the disease so that differences can be observed on the use of drugs. However, most volunteers for trials show signs of cognitive decline, which means they are already in the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s. This makes most potential volunteers ineligible.
“We need a cheap, non-invasive way to diagnose patients early before their symptoms get too bad,” Gates said.
Gates partnered with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation to raise capital through Diagnostic Accelerator to develop novel techniques for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Other philanthropists like Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott, and the Dolby family have also contributed to the fund, which is likely to complete its first round of funding by the end of the year. As on now, Diagnostic Accelerator has funded 25 researches.
One such research is being conducted on a simple blood test format. The test will look for indicators in the blood such as the presence of the protein amyloid that can cause plaques in the brain. The research is being conducted at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
“I’m hopeful this test will be available within the next year or two,” Gates said.
Another diagnostic technique in the pipeline is detecting Alzheimer’s through an eye test.
Researcher Cecilia Lee from the University of Washington published a study in 2018 on how eye conditions like glaucoma or macular degeneration heightens the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. At present, she is working on finding different ways to scan the eye to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s. Similar research is also being conducted by companies like RetiSpec, Neurovision Imaging, and Optina Diagnostics to find amyloid plaques through imaging techniques.
Talking of the progress in such research, Gates said several companies are working on developing apps that might be used for diagnostics as well. Such diagnostics will be easily accessible to anyone who uses a phone or tablet.
Neuroscience technology company Cogstate is developing a brain test that looks like a series of mobile games but evaluates different functions of the brain. Another company Altoida is trying to assess cognitive abilities through an app.
“If we want to stop Alzheimer’s, one of the biggest things we need to develop is a reliable, affordable, and accessible diagnostic,” Gates said. “I think we’re close to having one, and the developments we’ve seen over the past couple years make me more optimistic than ever that we can one day stop Alzheimer’s. I can’t wait to see what new progress is unlocked thanks to better tests,” he added.
At present, there are more than 55 million people living with dementia and nearly 10 million new cases are added every year, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a recent report on the public health response to dementia. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia.
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