Bill Gates is investing $50 million from his own account to help fund research to find the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

The Microsoft founder is the richest man on the planet, and he is known for his philanthropic work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to his blog, Gates wrote that men in his family have suffered from Alzheimer's. He added that his family history was not the sole reason he has joined the fight.

Most of the work done through his foundation has focused on infectious diseases including Polio, Malaria and HIV/AIDS.

According to CNN, it is the first time that Gates has made a commitment to a non-communicable disease. He invested in the Dementia Discovery Fund, a private-public partnership that seeks to find out what drives brain disease.

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's is a type of Dementia that is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. A report by the Alzheimer's Association indicates that the number of people who have died as a result of Alzheimer's has increased by 89% since 2000.

Inside the brain are numerous cells which work to create memories. This is achieved by messages being sent through a neural highway. Electrical signals pass through synapses and chemicals known as neurotransmitters leap across the gap with the messages to more neurons.

In Alzheimer's, the pathways for neurotransmitters become blocked by proteins called Amyloids and Tau. They accumulate and affect memory, personality and with time interfere with basic functions of the brain.

So far, there have been over 400 drug trials for Alzheimer's, and none are treatments. Most of the prescribed drugs available focus on memory loss and confusion but not the disease itself.

This is because it has been a challenge for experts to understand the disease. A definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's can only happen after someone is dead so that the brain can be analyzed under a microscope for the unusual proteins.

Alzheimer's new hope

Advanced imaging technology has enabled specialists to amyloid and tau in living people.

Early identification of these biomarkers can help scientists look for ways to protect the brain from deteriorating.

Bill Gates hopes to shift the focus in the research for Alzheimer's from amyloid and tau to a combination of mainstream and out of the box thinking. He believes this is what will lead to potential treatments for the disease.

His interest in combating Alzheimer's comes from the emotional and economic toll it takes on victims including their loved ones as well as the healthcare systems.

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