At Everything Retirement we’ve researched and reported on, frequently and at length, about the origins and management of Alzheimer’s disease.
Put bluntly in a recent article in The Globe and Mail, this brutal condition “is traditionally understood to be caused by the accumulation of abnormal protein in the brain. Get rid of the protein, the thinking goes, and you reduce the harm.”
As simple, and as complicated, as that.
New Research, New Hypothesis
But there’s a Toronto neurologist and medicinal chemist out there who, for the past 20 years, has been exploring an alternative explanation for the condition. His name is Dr. Donald Weaver, and he’s director of the Krembil Brain Institute at Toronto’s University Health Network.
Recently, Dr. Weaver was awarded the silver Oskar Fischer Prize, worth $400,000 USD. The prize, granted through the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is given to researchers to expand the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, which has long confounded those seeking a cure.
Dr. Weaver’s hypothesis is that Alzheimer’s is not a neurodegenerative disease, but an autoimmune disease. As The Globe and Mail reports: “His unconventional hypothesis has now won him a major award.”
Quoting Dr. Weaver directly, the newspaper article stated: “What this gives us is external validation and external support and belief that our approach has value, and indeed, may have value leading to alternative therapeutic directions for Alzheimer’s disease.”
It has been approximately 115 years since Alzheimer’s was first documented as a disease, driven by beta amyloid, a protein.
Dr. Weaver takes a contrarian view, suggesting it’s a normal part of the innate immune system in the brain, and plays several roles, including as a messenger and as a bacteria-killer. Anything that produces an immune response, whether it’s an infection, trauma or exposure to noxious substances, triggers cells in the brain to release beta amyloid, he believes.
The problem occurs when beta amyloid mistakes healthy brain cells for bacteria, he was reported as saying. “The end result is that it – oops! – accidentally starts killing brain cells.”
Dr. Weaver’s hypothesis is not definitive, though he believes that the same immune system mechanism may also apply to other diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or other forms of dementia.
New Ideas Can Often Lead to New Cures
The Globe and Mail story concluded with an observation from Dr. Jenny Hsieh, director of the UTSA Brain Consortium, the body awarding the prize – which included several other winners in hot pursuit of a definitive solution to a problem that has baffled experts for decades.
As Dr. Hsieh observed: “We just need people to be able to work on different ideas, and be inclusive of that, because the bottom line is all of the current approaches to Alzheimer’s disease [are] not working.”
The cure for Alzheimer’s disease is still some time away. But medical science is closing in on it.