When researchers at the University of Kentucky compare brains donated from people who died with dementia, very rarely do they find one that bears only Alzheimer’s trademark plaques and tangles no other damage.
If they do, “we call it a unicorn,” said Donna Wilcock, an Alzheimer’s specialist at the university’s aging center.
Contrary to popular perception, “there are a lot of changes that happen in the aging brain that lead to dementia in addition to plaques and tangles.”
That hard-won lesson helps explain how scientists are rethinking Alzheimer’s.
For years researchers have been guided by one leading theory that getting rid of a buildup of a sticky protein called amyloid would ease the mind-robbing disease.
Yet drug after the drug has failed.
They might clear out the gunk, but they’re not stopping Alzheimer’s inevitable worsening.
Today’s treatments only temporarily ease symptoms.
The new mantra: diversify.
With more money, the government had a record $2.4 billion to spend on Alzheimer’s research this year the focus has shifted to exploring multiple novel ways of attacking a disease now considered too complex for a one-size-fits-all solution.
On the list, researchers are targeting the brain’s specialized immune system, fighting inflammation, even asking if simmering infections play a role.
Learn more about: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Could Be Illnesses of the Past