If there is one constant in the race to unravel the mystery of Alzheimer’s, it is change. It appears as though whenever scientists start to get a grasp on one aspect of the disease, new insight shifts their hypotheses in an alternate direction. That is certainly the case with the remarkable new understanding in the progression of the condition.
For the first time ever, researchers from the University of Cambridge have been in a position to study human data as opposed to animal models, resulting in groundbreaking research on Alzheimer’s. Their findings suggest an origin of the disease in multiple areas of the brain, instead of a single location that starts a chain reaction, as formerly understood from scientific 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.”
This means that the disease’s development is based upon how rapidly cells are destroyed within these various regions. This new information is likely to be very beneficial in the development of treatment methods that focus on the processes that occur at the beginning of the disease. Additional noteworthy and positive news – the replication of the tau and amyloid beta proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s develop slowly, and our neurons are already evolving to stop the aggregation of these proteins. Hopefully soon, science and natural biology can work together to help the millions of men and women impacted by Alzheimer’s.
The next phase will be for researchers to further investigate the processes involved in the very first stages associated with the disease, while expanding research to other conditions, such as traumatic brain injury and progressive supranuclear palsy. The data obtained may even help shed light onto more effective treatments for a number of other common neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.
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