Alzheimer’s sufferers may be able to live with the disease without the devastating symptoms within the next few decades, scientists said as they were awarded the Brain Prize for their work fighting the illness.
Professor Michel Goedert, of Cambridge University, who discovered the importance of tau protein in Alzheimer’s said he could see a time when dementia became a chronic illness like HIV.
Prof Goedert who shares the one million euro Brain Prize with four colleagues, said: “Alzheimer’s will become something like HIV. It’s still there but it has been contained, or whittled down by drug treatments.
“It will disappear as a major problem from society.”
Prof Goedert was awarded the prize alongside Professors John Hardy and Bart De Strooper of University College London who developed the hypothesis that Alzheimer’s is caused by a build-up of amyloid protein in the brain, and Professor Christian Haass of Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich.
Prof Hardy said in the future, treatments for Alzheimer’s would be taken before the disease developed to prevent symptoms rather than trying to reverse them. He said may drug trials had failed because they had started when the disease was too well established.
“The mistakes we have made is the trials is that treatment has been given too late,” he said.
“It’s like popping a statin to stop a heart attack.
“But when we first started we knew almost nothing about Alzhiemer’s and now we understand a huge amount.”
Prof De Strooper added: “In 10 years we will have a completely different picture.”
The Brain Prize organisers said the winners had made essential contributions to the genetic and molecular knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease ‘which are the foundations for finding new ways to diagnose, treat and possibly even prevent it and other devastating diseases of the ageing brain’
Professor Anders Bjorklund, chairman of the Lundbeck Foundation Brain Prize selection committee, said: “Alzheimer´s disease is one of the most devastating diseases of our time and the remarkable progress that has been made during the last decades.
“These four outstanding European scientists have been rewarded for their fundamental discoveries unravelling molecular and genetic causes of the disease that have provided a basis for the current attempts to diagnose, treat and possibly even prevent neurodegenerative brain diseases.
“The award recognises that there is more to Alzheimer´s disease than amyloid, and that the field of dementia research is more than Alzheimer´s disease alone.”