How Well Do We Understand Alzheimer's Disease?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Unfortunately, not that well.

Scientists have been studying this disease for many yeas now, intensively so for the past decade. We have learned much and our understanding about the underlying pathology, risks, and avenues of treatment have all progressed.

However, the most basic mystery, what causes the disease, has not yet been solved.

We have described the leading theories (the Cholinergic hypothesis, the Amyloid hypothesis, and the Tau hypothesis) in earlier posts. While the majority of drug development work is currently aligned with the amyloid hypothesis, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests some weaknesses in that theory.

As described here, researchers examined the brains of 456 deceased people aged 69 to 103 and evaluated the correlation between the amount of amyloid build-up and diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease. While there was a fairly strong correlation in those at age 75, it was much weaker in the population at age 95.

Clearly, there is more work to do before we fully understand the pathology of this disease and make more rapid progress toward a cure.

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