Our brain is the seat of our personality, ambitions, dreams, and desires. It defines who we are as human beings, how we see the world — and sometimes how the world to see us. Neurodegenerative diseases — including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) — are among the most devastating to the patient and to their family, in large part because they chip away at this most fundamental part of us, slowly stealing our essential humanity.
As the average age of populations across the globe continues to increase, the incidence of AD has been rising. It is estimated that 50 million people were living with dementia in 2017, a number that is predicted to grow to over 131 million by 2050. In the United States alone, an estimated 5.8 million people over age 65 are currently living with the effects of AD; this number is expected to more than double in the next 30 years to 13.8 million. Concomitantly, the cost of caring for and treating these patients is also rising. Costs for health care and long-term care for persons with AD in the U.S. totaled an estimated USD 290 billion in 2019. Add to this an almost equal amount, estimated at USD 234 billion, in unpaid caregiving from friends and family, and the financial toll of this disease is significant.
From a research perspective, AD is being attacked on many fronts. In this supplement, we have featured four important articles published in the Science family of journals that provide a sampling of the breadth of research into different aspects of AD.