cover image In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Joseph Jebelli. Little, Brown, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-36079-1

The struggle to cure a cruel and increasingly common disease leads down intricate pathways of scientific discovery in this fascinating primer. Neuroscientist Jebelli recalls his grandfather’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease and meets other victims of the neurodegenerative illness, projected to become the second leading cause of death by 2050. He describes Alzheimer’s progression from forgetfulness to a loss of personality and inability to recognize family members to comprehensive mental failure, with sufferers unable to speak or even swallow. But the book’s heart is his account of scientists’ efforts to understand Alzheimer’s, from its mysterious telltale clusters of beta-amyloid protein to its hereditary underpinnings. In addition to specialists, Jebelli visits families whose tragically high rates of Alzheimer’s led to the identification of genetic mutations that cause the disease. The saga is full of hopeful—and frustrating—turns as ingenious new research suggests potential treatments that prove effective in mice but disappointing in humans. One promising, if ghoulish, approach is to transfuse plasma from young people into old, which seems to have remarkable restorative effects; alas, there’s too little young blood available to treat most Alzheimer’s cases. Jebelli’s exploration of the vexed science of Alzheimer’s is lucid and emotionally rich in its portrayal of those who investigate the illness and those who endure it. (Nov.)