Scientists find new type of Alzheimer’s that may affect thousands

Scientists discover a new type of Alzheimer’s that affects thousands: ‘LATE disease’ has exactly the same symptoms but affects the brain in a very different way

  • The discovery of LATE disease by Kentucky researchers sheds light on why scientists have struggled to find a cure for the disease
  • LATE and Alzheimer’s would need very different treatments

Another type of Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered.

Researchers say ‘LATE disease’ likely affects tens of thousands, and though it has exactly the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s it looks completely different on brain scans.

Its discovery sheds light on why scientists have struggled to find a cure for the brain disease; the two would need very different treatments.  

The lead authors say they hope to show it’s time we stop thinking of dementia as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ disease. 

It’s time we stop thinking of dementia as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ disease

‘More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold,’ said lead author Dr Peter Nelson of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky, ‘So why would we think there is just one cause of dementia?’ 

He adds: ‘LATE probably responds to different treatments than AD, which might help explain why so many past Alzheimer’s drugs have failed in clinical trials. 

‘Now that the scientific community is on the same page about LATE, further research into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ can help us develop disease-specific drugs that target the right patients.’ 

LATE affects multiple areas of cognition, ultimately impairing activities of daily life, but it appears that LATE progresses more gradually than Alzheimer’s. 

However, LATE combined with Alzheimer’s (something which, scientists believe, is very common) appears to cause a more rapid decline than either would alone.

Dr Nelson says the new paper, published today in the journal Brain, is on par with Benjamin Franklin’s ‘discovery’ of electricity.

‘People had seen lightning before of course, but Franklin helped formalize a concept that augmented our ability to study electricity,’ he said. 

‘By developing a sense of scientific focus around these data, we hope to jump-start a broad field of work to advance our understanding of this form of dementia and, ultimately, to open new opportunities for treatment.’   

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