Advances in Alzheimer’s Research

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and every 66 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with the disease. Research in this field has been going on since the early 1900s when the Alzheimer’s was first discovered. The first major breakthrough in research was in 1931 when an electron microscope was invented that allowed scientists to study brain cells in detail. Since then there have been many major advancements in research.

doctor examining MRI


1968 was the year that scientists finally validated a scale that measures and assesses cognitive and functional declines in older adults. This scale can help determine the level of impairment a person has which can aid in the correct diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.


The National Institute on Aging was established by Congress in 1974. This agency is the primary federal agency that supports Alzheimer’s research.


In 1980 the Alzheimer’s Association was founded. The Alzheimer’s Association is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to care, support, research, and awareness of Alzheimer’s.

1984 & 1986

In these years, the beta-amyloid and tau proteins were discovered. These are key components in Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloids trigger nerve cell damage and tau proteins form tangles in the brain and also contribute to nerve cell degeneration.


Tacrine was the first drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to target Alzheimer’s memory.

alzheimers disease


2003 was the year that the Alzheimer’s Association partnered with the National Institute on Aging to start a genetic study where they collected and banked blood samples to identify Alzheimer’s risk genes.


The International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (ISTAART) was established in 2008 to dedicate all of its efforts solely to Alzheimer’s and Dementia.


President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) into law in 2011. This means there is now a national strategic plan to continue things like research and care for Alzheimer’s.


In 2013 researchers found 20 new genetic variations that are associated with a risk for Alzheimer’s disease. 11 of these 20 had not previously been linked with the disease. In addition to this, they found genetic variations that are correlated to the immune system which helps them identify how the immune system plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease.


The first epigenetic treatment was tested in a clinical trial in 2016. Epigenetic treatments allow our bodies to change how much our genes work. Essentially you can turn them on and off, this could be monumental in the research and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease if these treatments are a success.

This is a brief timeline of all of the advances science has made so far with Alzheimer’s. There’s still so many treatments that are being tested in clinical trials, evidence being discovered to help find more causes for this disease and to help find treatments, and new diagnostic tools that are being developed.

Information for this article has been found from the Alzheimer’s Association website and from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

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group of three african american men hugging and laughingelderly man sitting in chair petting a dog