If there is one constant in the race to unravel the mystery of Alzheimer’s, it is change. It appears as though any time current Alzheimer’s research begins to get a handle on a single piece of information, new information shifts hypotheses in a new direction. That’s certainly the case with the astounding new understanding in its progression.
For the very first time ever, investigators from the University of Cambridge have been in a position to study human data instead of animal models. Their research points to an origin of the disease in several different areas of the brain, instead of a single location that starts a chain reaction, as previously surmised from studies of the brains of mice.
Dr. Georg Meisl of Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry explains, “The thinking had been that Alzheimer’s develops in a way that’s similar to many cancers: the aggregates form in one region and then spread through the brain. But instead, we found that when Alzheimer’s starts there are already aggregates in multiple regions of the brain, and so trying to stop the spread between regions will do little to slow the disease.”
For that reason, the disease’s progression is predicated upon how swiftly cells are destroyed in these different regions. This new information will undoubtedly be very helpful in the development of treatment options that focus on the processes that happen at the outset of the condition. Additional positive news: the replication of the tau and amyloid beta proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s takes place slowly, and our neurons are already evolving to stop the aggregation of these proteins. Hopefully soon, biology and science will work in tandem to assist the millions of individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
The next step will likely be for researchers to more fully investigate the processes involved in the earliest stages associated with the disease, while extending research to other conditions, such as traumatic brain injury and progressive supranuclear palsy. The knowledge accumulated may even help shed light onto more effective treatments for a number of other common neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s disease.
If someone you love is battling Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, connect with our dementia care team for beneficial resources and assistance with skilled, innovative, hands-on care. Our creative, patient, and caring approach helps reduce the stress of challenging behaviors such as:
- And many others
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