Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a fast growing world-wide epidemic. AD is a genetically complex, slowly progressive, and irreversible neurodegenerative disease of the brain. During decades of asymptomatic progression multiple interactive systems, pathways and molecular mechanisms (e.g. protein processing, aberrant signaling, inflammation and immune system, lipid transport, endocytosis, apoptosis, oxidative damage and response to stress, tau pathology, neuron and synapse loss, energy metabolism), contribute to the development of the early clinical prodromal stage with episodic memory deficits and to further decline and loss of general cognitive functioning during the final syndromal dementia stage. The non-mendelian genetically complex "sporadic" AD type is the most common form of dementia affecting people usually over the age of 65. Despite considerable progress of AD research in recent years and evolving paradigm shifts in both pathophysiological concepts as well as in diagnostic criteria fundamental challenges have not yet been resolved. The strong age-related incidence, the recent failure and complete lack of disease-modifying or preventive therapy that may delay onset or substantially affect the pathophysiology of AD, result in an enormous burden posed both on individuals, their families and care givers, and the societies at large, and these call for urgent concerted worldwide measures. Based on the meeting of the German Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease (GTF-AD) in Paris on July 19th 2011, the present position paper provides an overview on the current state and future developments in epidemiology, pathophysiology, disease conceptualization, diagnostic criteria and their use in research and clinical practice, as well as preventive and symptomatic therapeutic approaches. Particular emphasis is placed on a discussion of the different approaches to diagnostics and therapy taken by preventive/public health medicine, methodologically advanced academic research propagating the use of sophisticated biomarkers, and everyday clinical practice focusing on patient-centered care. During the next 10 years, major advances both in early detection as well as in therapy and comprehensive AD care seem mandatory. These still unmet needs call for ever more concerted and focused efforts in research across the world to combat the erupting and as yet uncontrolled epidemic of AD.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.