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Hopeful news from -- and for -- Alzheimer's researchers

Memory problems could be an early sign of

Memory problems could be an early sign of dementia and should not be ignored. Credit: iStock

Lately there's been a lot of hopeful news about that most hopeless of diseases, Alzheimer's. There's a new $100-million global fund forming to speed up research into new treatments and a cure for dementia. The money comes from the British government, five drugmakers and an Alzheimer's charity.

Dementia affects 47 million people and is projected to affect 100 million by 2030 and 150 million by 2050 as the global population ages.

But maybe that epidemic won't materialize. A projection made in 1920 of how many people would die of polio or pneumonia by 2015 wouldn't have allowed for the vaccines and antibiotics that lay ahead.

Also, drugmaker Biogen Idec reported last week that an Alzheimer's drug it's working on sharply slowed the decline of Alzheimer's patients in a clinical trial. Last year a Stanford University study found a way to stop, and even reverse, dementia in mice. And Australian researchers recently discovered a method of reversing dementia in mice entirely different from the one the Stanford researchers are pursuing.

To project huge future problems like an Alzheimer's epidemic in 2050 is to assume we must face tomorrow's problems using only today's technology and treatment. Thankfully, that's not the case.