Living in Revolutionary Times


The West experienced world shattering  political and social revolutions  in the 18th and 19th centuries; but our own time is no less revolutionary, certainly in the areas of technology and sciences. Recently another major breakthrough in medical science was heralded in the eminent journal Nature, that will no doubt have significant societal consequences.  The published study now seems to confirm  the existence of a rare gene mutation that provides protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

This protective mutation slows the production of beta amyloid, excessive amounts of which in the brain have been all but conclusively linked to Alzheimer’s.

As Dr. David Altshuler, a genomics expert at Harvard noted, “The implication for drug development is hugely important.”

Scientists at various drug companies who are working on curative or preventative drugs are now increasingly positive that  they are on the right track in their research. “We are thrilled,” said Ryan Watts, one of the authors of the new paper and head of the neurodegeneration labs at Genentech which is developing drugs to reduce brain amyloid levels.

In our law  practice we see the ravages of dementia and the debilitating impacts on family; we also see elder abuse and exploitation markedly increasing with longevity improvements and therefore the greater opportunities for the elderly to suffer from dementia.

This new research holds out the prospect that there may be ways to push back against this trend and as a consequence improve the lives of those afflicted with brain diseases and  therefore reduce abuse.

This weekend the annual international conference of Alzheimer’s researchers has been held at the Hyatt; last year was Paris- this year our own City. I had the occasion to speak with a research scientist from Pittsburgh who was attending the Conference; she confirmed the potential  importance of this discovery and noted that  whatever our individual views  on the influence of mega drug companies, that ultimately it will be a drug that will likely stem the onslaught of this most ravaging of diseases.