16 Dec 2013

War on dementia akin to moon landing mission

David Gethin’s photo of the moonThe biggest medical challenge of them all? Daily blogger Peter Rhodes on why curing dementia could take longer than putting a man on the moon.
DAVID Cameron says the developed world could produce a cure for dementia within 12 years. And how many of us, 12 years from now, will remember his words?

OFFICIALLY, the main cause of dementia is our increasing lifespan. Yet how can that account for the tidal wave of Alzheimer's and other brain-affecting conditions threatening to bury the NHS? It certainly can't explain the increase in early-onset dementia seen in people aged under 65. Remember those panicky days in the late 1980s when BSE, mad-cow disease, erupted and some scientists were claiming this terrifying disease could cross from cattle to humans? Back then the food expert Professor Richard Lacey famously forecast: “If our worst fears are realized we could virtually lose a generation of people.”

LACEY was roundly rubbished and the BSE threat seems to have gone away. But at various times, other researchers claim to have found a link between dementia and excess alcohol, raised blood pressure, high cholesterol, mobile phones, fluoride in the water, high blood sugar and mercury fillings in our teeth. We live in a complex and most unnatural world, and the fact that so many potential cause of dementia have been proposed reveals how little the experts really know. President Kennedy gave his top scientists 10 years to put a man on the moon. The timetable for beating dementia is two years longer. That's how vast the challenge is.

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