As we enter a New Year, we hope you are as optimistic as we are that with the emergence of vaccines and treatments aimed at COVID-19, we will be able to gather again. Advances in media research give us all reason to hope, not just as we deal with the worldwide pandemic, but as we work to identify better diagnostic tools and robust, disease-changing treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While the world’s eyes were laser-focused on COVID-19 in 2020 – and rightfully so – there were noteworthy developments in Alzheimer’s disease research that you may have missed.
Here are five:
The drug pipeline for Alzheimer’s is heating up. You may have heard of aducanumab, the Biogen drug currently being reviewed by the FDA, but there were other Alzheimer’s drugs that made strides this year.
n Suvorexant, a drug that treats insomnia, was approved by the FDA in February 2020 for use in people with Alzheimer’s.
n Pimavanserin (Nuplazid), a drug that treats hallucinations and delusions in Alzheimer’s disease, was submitted to the FDA for review last June, with an anticipated decision by spring 2021.
n BAN2401, an anti-amyloid drug by Eisai and Biogen, is being assessed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s in a Phase 3 clinical trial that started last July.
A blood test for Alzheimer’s is closer than ever. Breakthrough research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2020 found that specific markers in the blood may be able to detect changes in the brain 20 years before Alzheimer’s symptoms occur.
Research explored the potential role of vaccines in reducing risk of Alzheimer’s. Data presented at AAIC 2020 found an unexpected benefit of getting flu and pneumonia vaccines: a reduced incidence and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A global study examining the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain was launched. Scientific leaders, including the Alzheimer’s Association and representatives from more than 25 countries, are working together with technical guidance from the World Health Organization to track the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the brain.
Genetic risk for Alzheimer’s may not mean the same for all races and ethnicities. The APOE-e4 gene variant is the most well-known and strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, but that research has largely been done in people of European descent. New research published last November in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association found that APOE-e4 has a very different effect in Latinx populations, only adding significant risk in those of Cuban backgrounds.
2020 was an exciting year for Alzheimer’s research and 2021 promises to be the same. If you would like to learn more about advances in Alzheimer’s research, please register for one of our virtual Research programs, visit our website at alz.org, or download our free SCIENCE HUB app on your mobile device.
Marisa Korytko is the Public Relations Director for the Alzheimer’s Association Northeastern New York chapter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.