New Avenues for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

By | December 15, 2010

This New York Times article provides a good synopsis on new research efforts to find a method for curing Alzheimer’s, or at least radically slowing down the disease progression. The new research avenues fall into into two main categories:

1. Slow beta amyloid clearance in older brains. The historical research focus on overproduction of amyloid proteins as a culprit in Alzheimer’s may be shifting to a view that impaired natural clearance of this brain protein is a more likely scenario. This presents some interesting avenues for drug discovery that can speed amyloid clearance, in addition to drugs that slow production of the protein.

2. Default network vulnerability. The default network in the human brain includes the hippocampus and parts associated with sense of self and personality. A consistent finding is that amyloid protein accumulates first in the default network, which is why memory impairments and sometimes major changes in behavior are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. Sleep deprivation overtaxes the default network and doesn’t allow the necessary time to clear amyloid protein from the hippocampus, for example. Getting a solid eight hours of sleep is a good idea for this and many other brain health goals.

The story also mentions that early detection of Alzheimer’s is crucial, with the comment that “The trick in Alzheimer’s, though, might be to start treatment before too much damage is done.” This is a prime reason why memory screening in the doctor’s office needs to become routine, in order to catch early signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.