You Can Shut Down the Government, But You Can't Shut Down Alzheimer's

October 18, 2013 - Trish Vradenburg

Editor's note: this blog post originally appeared on Huffington Post 50

Here is something that doesn't stop when the government closes down: Alzheimer's.

When Louise was 3, her mother, Zoe, who was 29 at the time, was diagnosed with dementia. She is now 42, living in a home care facility unable to walk or talk.

Then there is Charlie Collier, who for 25 years traveled the country seeking donations for Harvard University. Charlie gained a national reputation in the field of family philanthropy.Now, he is speaking out -- as much as he is able -- on a topic even closer to his heart: Alzheimer's disease. He was diagnosed five years ago with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 60.

Louise, Zoe and Charlie are counting on NIH for a cure. Well, that's not going to happen this week, or who knows for how long. That's because NIH has furloughed ¾ of its clinical researchers since the U.S. government has closed down. They are now deemed non-essential.

Really? To whom?! Maybe to the Congressmen who are lazing around in the Congressional gym (which stays open, because apparently the tax-supported steam room is essential. Uncle Sam needs to open his pores).

So, Charlie and Zoe and all of the 216,000 early onset Alzheimer victims (defined as anybody younger than 65 -- and there are many 40 and 50-year-olds in that group) who cannot close down their symptoms like Congress can close down the government continue to wait and suffer. As do the rest of the 5.4 million Alzheimer's victims in the U.S..

And when (I am assuming it is a "when," not an "if") this shutdown is over, they scientist will still have to contend with another serious problem: mice. As NPR recently reported, "thousands of mice used in medical research are at risk due to sequestration. Added to that, the government shutdown is likely to mean an early death for thousands of mice used in research in diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's." Federal research centers including the NIH Wwll have to kill the mice because of overcrowding. Others will die without constant monitoring. But, that won't be possible, because most federal scientists have been banned from their labs since Oct. 1.

So what can you and I -- mere citizens -- do about this situation? In the long term: remember this lunacy come the 2014 elections. In the short term: email your Congressional representatives and voice your outrage. Who knows, with all this time on their hands, they may even be reading their mail.

So here I am, begging

that we think twice 

before we splice 

those laboratory mice, 

that's my advice 

'cause mice are nice 

particularly if they can save your life.

About the Author


Trish Vradenburg

UsAgainstAlzheimer's is a 501(c)(3) organization connecting networks of organizations and individuals to take action to end Alzheimer’s by 2020, while providing the general public, policy leaders and the media with vital information about Alzheimer’s disease.