Re­search fo­cused on tack­ling fu­ture rise in de­men­tia cases

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - ByWANG XIAODONG wangx­i­aodong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

On a Satur­day morn­ing in Oc­to­ber, Zhang Zhenxin, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in de­men­tia at Pek­ing Union Med­i­cal Col­lege Hos­pi­tal, talked with a 61-year-old re­tiree at acom­mu­nity ina sub­urb of Bei­jing.

“It started about three to four years ago,” said the re­tiree, sur­named Liu. “I’d been tak­ing pills ev­ery day for many years to re­duce choles­terol, but I found my­self start­ing to for­get to take them.”

Liu, who sus­pected he might be de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia, was asked ques­tions by Zhang about his ex­pe­ri­ences and hob­bies, and asked to per­form sim­ple mem­ory, lan­guage and vis­ual tests.

“For the present, there’s no sign of de­men­tia,” Zhang said. “But that c ould change in the fu­ture.”

The sur­vey, con­ducted by Zhang at Taikang en­dow­ment com­mu­nity, is part of na­tional sci­en­tific re­search on early di­ag­no­sis and pre­ven­tion of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, which is plagu­ing China’s el­derly and is ex­pected to place even more of a bur­den on China’s rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The is­sue of ag­ing has drawn at­ten­tion at the on­go­ing Ninth Global Con­fer­ence on Health Pro­mo­tion in Shang­hai.

Luo Yimin, chief en­gi­neer of the Na­tional Re­search Cen­ter for Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and As­sis­tive De­vices, said a satel­lite meet­ing on healthy ag­ing at the con­fer­ence heard that China is ex­pected to have a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of fully or par­tially dis­abled se­nior ci­ti­zens, in­clud­ing those with de­men­tia, and the gov­ern­ment should take pre-emp­tive mea­sures to meet the chal­lenges of car­ing for them.

Cur­rently, about 40 mil­lion se­nior ci­ti­zens re­quire long-term care in Chi­naan­don­ly5per­centlive in­nurs­ing homes, of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics show.

Es­ti­mates from the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion showed China is likely to have 97 mil­lion dis­abled se­nior ci­ti­zens by 2050.

The num­ber of de­men­tia pa­tients in China in 2010 ex­ceeded 9 mil­lion, the most in the world, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished in The Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal. A re­port by China Re­gion De­vel­op­ment and Re­form In­sti­tute forecast thenum­berto reach 22 mil­lion by 2040.

“The key to over­com­ing the dis­ease is in early di­ag­no­sis and in­ter­ven­tion,” Zhang said.

To cope with the ris­ing chal­lenges posed by an ex­pected surge in the cases of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, a ma­jor type of de­men­tia, China this year ini­ti­ated a ma­jor re­search project on the dis­ease which will ex­tend to 2020, hop­ing to achieve re­search break­throughs on fac­tors that con­trib­ute to the dis­ease as well as early and pre­ci­sion di­ag­no­sis, pre­ven­tion and ef­fec­tive treat­ment of the dis­ease.

For Zhang, a lead­ing mem­ber par­tic­i­pat­ing in the re­search, the sur­vey he con­ducted at Taikang is an im­por­tant part of the whole project. Zhang’steamin Bei­jin­gand other teams from 14 top hospi­tals across China, in­clud­ing in Shang­hai, Xi’an, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Suzhou and Wuhan, plan to sur­vey 4,000 vol­un­teers aged 50 and older.

The doc­tors will keep track­ing their sub­jects and pro­vide timely in­ter­ven­tion if early signs of de­men­tia ap­pear, she said.

Mean­while, with the lat­est tech­nolo­gies, re­searchers from other in­sti­tutes, such as BGI, a lead­ing ge­nomics re­search in­sti­tute based in Shen­zhen, will use the col­lected sam­ples to fo­cus on in­spec­tion of genes and test of pro­teins that may cause the dis­ease, in hope of iden­ti­fy­ing early-stage pa­tients and pro­vid­ing them with ef­fec­tive treat­ment.

Through co­op­er­a­tion be­tween dif­fer­ent teams, re­searchers in­volved in the project hope to get a clearer un­der­stand­ing of the dis­ease, in­clud­ing­whow­ill get the dis­ease and­howit will de­velop, Zhang said.

Cur­rent num­ber of se­nior ci­ti­zens in China who re­quire long-term care Es­ti­mated num­ber of de­men­tia pa­tients in China by 2040

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