The top 10 deadliest diseases in the U.S. are killing less and less people each year thanks to breakthroughs in research. All except Alzheimer’s that is. The mortality rate for Alzheimer’s disease is still skyrocketing, and many point to a lack of funding for research as the reason why.
Experts estimate about 38,000 West Virginians are living with Alzheimer’s disease right now. WVU Professor David Smith is giving new hope to these patients and their families.
J.T. Hunter was home from college visiting his grandma in Beckely when he noticed something wasn’t right.
“My grandmother told me it was Christmas and Sarah was decorating the Christmas tree- it was May. So that’s how I knew without a doubt something was going on,” Hunter explained.
The woman he spent half of his life with was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Looking for help as her carertaker, Hunter walked into the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association.
“If I can volunteer and be here every day and go to all these events, sit in on support groups, you know I was educating myself,” Hunter added.
The cause was so important to him, he soon got a job there. Now he serves as the Family Services Coordinator, working with families every day, using experiences like this to help others.
“When I walked in her room this morning she said ‘when are you going to get it together. And you took my house and my car’ I said I tried everything else and in this moment I thought I’ll try something different. I leaned in and grabbed her hand and said ‘I’ll always make you proud.’ And in that moment it seemed to work,” Hunter told 13 News.
While this helps many caregivers get through the day-to-day struggles, they want to see a cure. WVU Professor David Smith’s research looks at how proteins in the brain take shape. His data could help design small molecules to prevent the toxic build-up that causes Alzheimer’s.
“The end hope is that a medication then, with earlier detection, could hopefully break that up and eliminate that disease. That’s something we’ve really not had the ability to look into yet. So this is very exciting and very promising,” Hunter explained.
This research could also help Parkinson’s and Huntington’s patients, and scientists are optimistic that a cure is just a few years away.