(3TV/CBS 5) − Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and researchers are fighting the clock as the baby boomer population ages. This is why news of a possible Alzheimer's vaccine is so exciting.
The drug is called aducanumab. It's one of the first drugs showing real promise in the ongoing fight to get this disease under control.
Dr. Anna Burke, director of neuropsychiatry and Alzheimer’s expert at Barrow Neurological Institute explained the drug.
"Rather than teaching your body to create antibodies against amyloid plaque, this is an antibody that has already been created that gets injected directly into the veins," said Burke. "It is meant to latch on to the amyloid plaque and to dissolve it."
Burke said the idea is to dissolve the plaque which is the hallmark of Alzheimer's and hopefully slow or stop the disease in its tracks.
She said in the past, they've had drugs that have had similar effects on the plaque but this is the first time they've actually seen behavioral changes and improved cognitive function in patients using the medication.
Signs of Alzheimer's develop up to 20 years before any symptoms appear, so she says moving forward much of the research will focus on preventative medications in place for people at high risk of developing the disease.
"If we can identify these people at a younger age certainly we'll be able to use these therapies before they ever develop symptoms," she said.
While there's no definite way to prevent this disease altogether, Burke said you can give yourself a better chance of avoiding it by eating a Mediterranean diet, getting regular exercise, playing brain games, and having an active social life.