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Alzheimer's breakthrough could lead to new treatments

Alzheimer's breakthrough could lead to new treatments
8th December 2016

A new breakthrough in Alzheimer's disease research could allow scientists to move one step closer to developing effective treatments for dementia. A team from Aberdeen University has found that previous research is not correct, which could transform how the illness is looked it.

Studies have, until now, suggested that two protein molecules, tau and amyloid, might contribute toward Alzheimer's during its early stages. Previous research also suggested that the proteins first emerge in different regions of the brain to each other. 

However, the team from Aberdeen University has found that both proteins are present in the memory region of the brain when the disease first starts. As both molecules are found in the same region, it suggests they are a lot more connected than was first thought, which could give more insight into dementia. 

Professor Bettina Platt, one of the research team leaders, said: “In the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia research there has been a long-running battle regarding the two main suspects that might cause brain cells to die – tau and amyloid.

“These two have never been brought together in human cases, and the relationship between them has not been clear. Our observations, therefore, consolidate conflicting evidence from other studies on the role of the proteins in the disease process and strongly support a notion of an early stage interaction between the two.”

She continued to say that scientists have believed that changes in the brain related to Alzheimer's happen well before any symptoms present themselves. However, reliable methods to detect these changes have not yet been developed. The latest findings mean that they can now determine when and where these molecules appear, which could aid pathological investigations.

The team's findings are based on samples that were provided by the Brains for Dementia Research project, which collects tissues to help medical research in a number of different areas.

Dr David Koss, the second leader of the research team, said: “These early-stage changes in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease highlight key biochemical processes that may not only enable improved diagnostic procedures but may also inform drug development programmes.”

These findings could help to identify Alzheimer's disease early on before symptoms have started to present. However, Dr Koss said that it will now be up to the scientific community to further evaluate what these findings could mean for dementia treatment.

In the UK alone, more than 800,000 people have been diagnosed with some form of dementia, usually after symptoms have started to become apparent. There is not yet a cure for the disease and it can be hard to tell what treatment will be effective for someone. Findings like this help the medical community to better understand the disease, which could pave the way for future advances.