Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research Takes a New Approach
Recently, an article was published detailing a new approach that doctors are taking to Alzheimer’s and dementia research. These diseases have impacted countless families over the past few decades. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia rob people of their memories, their personality, and their ability to think clearly. As a result, loved ones feel like the person they know has changed.
Decades of research has been focused on a specific area of Alzheimer’s disease. The medical community has designed drug after drug to try to combat this change; however, the results have not been able to stop the progression of dementia. Those who are diagnosed with this disease are often aware that the changes are irreversible. Doctors know that a new approach needs to be taken, which is the goal discussed in this article.
A Singular Focus: A Shifting Mentality
For the decades that researchers have been looking at Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, they have been focusing on the buildup of a specific protein called amyloid. This amyloid buildup was detected in the brains of numerous people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Therefore, drugs were designed to try and clear out this buildup. Even though the drugs would do their job, Alzheimer’s would still worsen. The treatments only seemed to ease the symptoms of the disease temporarily. Further research showed that these amyloid deposits would start to collect decades before the symptoms started to appear. Alone, amyloid buildup is not enough to cause someone’s mental faculties to deteriorate.
Because of this, a shifting mentality has developed in the medical community. Perhaps there are other proteins, in addition to amyloid, which are responsible for the devastating symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. By spreading the research to focus on multiple targets, more success might be seen. This diversification may be the key to finding more success in this field.
Spreading the Targets of Dementia Research
This past year, the government had more than $2 billion at their disposal to try and fight Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This was a record amount of resources at their disposal. Instead of looking for a one-stop-shop for dementia research, they have spread their focus to include other targets. This includes inflammatory responses, potential infections, and the immune system of the brain.
The brain’s immune system consists of cells called microglia. These microglia support the neurons of the brain by soaking up toxins and other debris that might get in the way of functioning neurons. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis believe that a mutation in microglial cells might be contributing to Alzheimer’s. Microglial cells with this mutation seem to have a harder time removing toxins and debris, allowing toxic products to build up in the brain that might lead to dementia. It will be interesting to see if this dementia research leads to any new discoveries that can help patients and their families down the road.
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