As one of the leading Medicaid attorneys serving Chester County, PA, I encounter many cases of mental decline, especially dementia, while working with my clients and their loved ones. In fact, dementia is probably one of the biggest risks our society faces. It changes a person’s behavior, destroys relationships (marriages, friends, families), and caring for a person with dementia is a huge, unfunded, financial obligation that most people (and the government) have not allocated resources for. The cost of caring for our elderly and disabled is likely the most significant risk to our country’s financial solvency.
No Cure in Sight, Yet
While there is no current cure for dementia, there is now a test for it. However, that begs the question: Would you really want to know if you had a high risk of getting dementia, even though there’s no effective treatment for it? The minimally-invasive exam could help to hasten new therapies to be developed, which can be critical since over 150 million people are predicted to have the condition by the year 2050. However, although billions of dollars in research money and grants have gone into trying to find a cure for dementia, it has all been to no avail. If we continue down this path, the cost of dementia will continue to expand, reaching $2 trillion by 2030. That’s merely more than a decade away. Clearly, something needs to be done about this issue.
How the Test Works
The test was developed by Koichi Tanaka and his colleagues. It uses mass spectrometer analysis, which allows his team to search for a particular compound based on its specific molecular weight and charge. The compound in question is amyloid-beta peptides, and the goal is to accurately predict the progression of Alzheimer’s in patients by tracking the amount of amyloid-beta from just a teaspoon of blood. This can allow the identification of people who are likely to develop the disease.
Before this breakthrough, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron-emission tomography (PET) scans, and spinal taps were among the only ways to track the changes that Alzheimer’s causes in the brain. However, a significant problem with these methods is that not only can they be expensive, but in the case of a spinal tap, invasive and quite painful as well. Mr. Tanaka’s new test is so reliable — in fact, 90% accurate when it was checked against brain scans — that many large pharmaceutical companies like Spain’s Araclon Biotech SL, and Lexington, Massachusetts-based Quanterix Corp. are pursuing these diagnostic tools for their own Alzheimer’s research.
So the question is, whether you’d want to know if you have a higher risk for dementia without a clear path to avoid the disease. It could allow planning better for your future needs, but for some, the anxiety of seeing the future without tools to change the outcome may not be worth it. It’s certainly something to ponder.