Immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s Disease - Mayo Clinic
New Breakthrough In Alzheimer’s Research
Just as the roots of a weed need to be pulled up to prevent regrowth, medical scientists must find the root of a disease in order to develop lasting remedies. A research team from the Columbia University Medical Center says they’ve finally stalked Alzheimer’s to its earliest developmental stages—a discovery that may soon lead to more-effective treatments.
Using fMRI technology, the study team tracked the brain health of 96 older adults. After 3.5 years, 12 of them had developed the early, mildest stages of Alzheimer’s. By comparing brain scans of those 12 at the start and end of the study period, and by contrasting those with the scans of the other 84 participants, the researchers say they’ve finally pinpointed the starting point of the disease.
Alzheimer’s appears to show up first in a region of the brain called the lateral entorhinal cortex, or LEC, which the study authors say is the “gateway” to the hippocampus—the part of your brain responsible for consolidating long-term memories. From there, the disease spreads to other regions of the brain—most notably the parietal cortex, which is associated with spatial orientation and coordination. The study also revealed how elevated levels of two proteins interact to create dysfunction in the brain’s LEC.
What does all this mean? “If we can detect the disease in its preclinical stages, we are more likely to stop it in its tracks,” explains Dr. Scott A Small, MD, the study’s co-senior author and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia. Dr. Small says that by gaining understanding of why molecular defects happen in the LEC, they can also develop new therapies for current Alzheimer’s patients. “This is exactly what we are currently doing,” he adds.
Those new treatments and therapies are still 5 to 10 years out, Dr. Small says. But with his research, he and his colleagues have taken a big step toward understanding Alzheimer’s—and figuring out how to prevent it.
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