A Pfizer sign on the outside of its headquarters in New York City.
My busia doesn’t know my name.
“Busia” is the Polish word for grandmother and — owing to my Polish heritage — what I’ve called my grandmother my entire life. And, for the record, she knew my name up until my senior year of high school.
That was when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the world’s most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 35 people million worldwide, is generally diagnosed in people over 65, though my busia was in her eighties when the diagnosis became official.
Alzheimer’s develops differently for each individual person, though there are common symptoms. These include impaired memory (semantic and implicit), apraxia, cognitive impairment, and delusion.
Even though Alzheimer’s disease was discovered in 1906, there is so much about the disease that is unknown, including causes and of couse, a cure. As college students are too early in their mental development to develop Alzheimer’s, many may not grasp the full impact of the disease.
It’s hard to grasp unless you’ve watched your mother struggle to take your wandering grandmother from one room in your house to another. It’s hard to understand unless your grandmother tells you an engaging story about how she flew planes in World War II, only to learn that it was all a lie. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve changed a diaper for your grandmother because she no longer has the skills necessary to take care of herself.
Hard to understand, but not impossible.
Earlier this week, an experimental drug targeted at stopping mental decline in Alzhemier’s patients was found to have a potential pre-diagnosis effect. The drug, bapineuzumab (bap-ih-NOOZ-uh-mab), made by Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, is believed to prevent nerve damage in the brain, implying that bapineuzumab may be an effective drug for pre-onset Alzheimer’s patients.
Alzheimer’s disease is genetic, and because of my busia, the chance of me — and other college students whose relatives suffer from the disease — developing Alzheimer’s in a few decades is high.
The bapineuzumab drug studies give hope for college students worldwide.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by 2050, an American will develop the disease every 33 seconds, so any semblance of a cure is a step in the right direction.
While bapineuzumab technically failed to achieve its’ aim, the potential benefits of the drug show that any cure is better than no cure at all.
It will take years to prove that the results from this study were accurate, a few more to create another potentially successful drug, and more as the cycle repeats. By the time our generation reaches 65, a cure for Alzhemier’s could be in its final stages, if not already in your medicine cabinet.
Scientific discovery is a long process, but it is fortunately one that works in a contrasting path to Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s eats away at a person little by little, taking hope and memories as it grows in power.
The search for a cure does the opposite: each grain of knowledge builds towards a whole and to a future where Alzheimer’s is not feared. Every forward step taken is a piece of someone’s life being returned to them. A family vacation. A childhood memory.
Or maybe a grandchild’s name.
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