Alzheimer's Matters Blog

Understanding the Biology of Aging

May 8, 2014

Category: Understanding Dementia


Aging is the single greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s never clearer than when reviewing the hard numbers: 96 percent of the 5.4 million Americans living with the disease are over the age of 65 and a third of Americans over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s.

The challenge is translating this basic knowledge into a cure for the disease. That’s where the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) comes in. This Friday, we’ll bring some of the world’s preeminent neuroscientists together at the New York Academy of Sciences in NYC for a conference, The Biology of Aging: Novel Drug Targets for Neurodegenerative Disease.

Aging and Alzheimer’s

Our lifestyles and our genetics both play a role in aging, longevity, and brain health.  A poor diet, UV rays from the sun, and physical stressors can hasten physical and mental aging. Genetics, however, are the single most reliable way to determine how long a person will live. 

How We’re Using this Knowledge to Prevent and Cure Alzheimer’s

ADDF-funded scientists are using what we know about the biology of aging to investigate and develop therapeutics to slow—and prevent—the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  Here are a few examples.

What we know: Researchers have found that inflammation increases with aging—and that systemic inflammation kills neurons and has a negative effect on the brain.
How it helps: Scientists are investigating a number of therapeutic approaches designed to reduce inflammation in the brain. They hope that by reducing inflammation they can also prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. 

What we know: As we age, many proteins in our brain and body begin misfolding. This process can turn a once harmless protein into a toxic one. When beta-amyloid proteins misfold, for example, they form plaques that can damage and kill our brain cells.
How it helps: Scientists are using this knowledge to investigate drugs that enhance natural cell processes that play a role in removing misfolded proteins. Drugs that enhance these processes could theoretically reverse Alzheimer’s disease.

We’ll be diving deeper into these and other promising pathways for Alzheimer’s drug discovery at Friday’s conference. Events like these play a crucial role in advancing the scientific conversation and moving us closer to a cure.