let one of this summers biggest blockbusters help us focus on reserach for Alzheimer's.
As the summer comes to an anti-climatic close, let us take a look back at one of the more successful summer blockbusters and examine the extraordinary science on display in this movie. The movie I am referring to is “Rise of Planet of the Apes,” which thankfully does not star original cast member Charlton Heston. Although marketed as a fairly typical lighthearted summer movie, the plot has some serious medical and moral questions being dissected. One of the underlying subplots of this film and the sole reason the Apes even gain the ability to access human like intelligence, is because of the potential to reverse Alzheimer’s. The film revolves around star James Franco, whose character is a scientist and is caring for his dad who is inflicted with the horrific disease.
The most interesting aspect about the character of Franco is his undying love for his dad and the challenges he and in real life, so many families must deal with when a loved one has this. Franco’s character is obviously meant to come off to the audience as sympathetic, but the dilemma he struggles with is a fascinating concept to explore. Franco’s character is driven finding a cure for not only an immediate family concern, nevertheless for an overall greater societal good. In that sense, his character is not only endearing, but in some ways heroic. So what is his dilemma? Well, his miracle Alzheimer’s pill does provide temporary improvement for his dad, but in the process gives Caesar (the leader of the Ape revolution and pet chimp of Franco) the intelligent power to lead all apes in a coordinated attack against their human captors.
So, I know we all can agree that if scientists could eradicate Alzheimer’s from planet Earth, they should. Perhaps the only way to do it ‘could’ create a super race of apes, due to testing on animals before humans. Would it be worth it? Should it still be done? This question is similar to an old question asked about cancer. If we could cure cancer by killing one person, do we do it? Tough call, because every social issue, be it political or medical always has a personal component to it that must be assimilated into a larger conversation that impacts all of society.
There are those that would say yes to the cancer and Alzheimer’s’ question by simply offering what they deem to be acceptable safeguards. For example, one can imagine a safeguard or regulation, being offered that could guarantee the Apes’ are not allowed to communicate with one another and they be in continued isolation or even euthanized before they reach maturity. In theory, this could prevent them from realizing they are basically being enslaved and treated like shit, therefore, will not strategize against humans. But, what about the ‘human rights’, or maybe ‘universal rights’ they are entitled too? Would it really be ethical to euthanize an animal that was as aware and as intelligent as a human? I doubt it! Then the only alternative would be to share some sort of dialogue with them and treat them, and dear I say, equal to humans with the same Inalienable rights. So obviously this can’t work unless humans use a sort of twisted theory of Darwinism to justify the policy.
So is there any hope for families and the thousands upon thousands of baby boomers who may be heading to a dark life of Alzheimer’s? Well yes, there is some, but not nearly the focus this disease demands. Currently, there are some medications for Alzheimer’s that vary in effectiveness from person to person. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications — cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda) — to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer's disease.”
But all medical procedures, including medicine and natural remedies simply delay the awful darkness that awaits every victim. We must, as societies prioritize research for Alzheimer’s with private and federal funding. But I want to stress that private funding is good and necessary, but must be done in conjunction with public funding. We cannot afford to risk a private corporate company hijacking a cure to Alzheimer’s for the possible gain of profit, as was the case in the movie. The corporate interest seemed in conflict with Franco’s character throughout the whole movie, which indirectly led to the ‘Apes Rising.’
Hopefully, we will awake one day with the collective bad memory of this awful disease, without doing morally corrupt atrocities to Apes that could backfire. But, if the cure was right in front of us, would we just role the dice and do it? That is for you to decide.