5 Targets for Alzheimer’s Research
Carol Bradley Bursack | Jan 13, 2016
While plaques and tangles involving amyloid and tau proteins have been the targets of most Alzheimer’s research during the last decade, there are researchers who aren’t certain that this is the only approach to be taken. These scientists think that there may be a different underlying cause for the disease or even more than one cause. Some feel that Alzheimer’s may have several subtypes. If these researchers aren’t studying plaques and tangles what is their focus?
Many researchers believe that inflammation of the brain may be one key toward why dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s, develops in some people who have the classic plaques and tangles in their brains but does not develop in others. What causes this inflammation? There are multiple causes for inflammation so this, too, is being studied.
Some researchers refer to Alzheimer’s disease as Type 3 diabetes. Without well-regulated insulin levels, people with diabetes are far more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than the general population. Additionally, there have been several Alzheimer’s studies that have shown success in reversing Alzheimer’s symptoms by treating the participant with nasal insulin.
Genes and the Immune System
The APOE e4 gene has long been associated with higher rates of plaque buildup and is often present in those with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease (YOAD). However, researchers have recently found that IL1RAP, the gene which codes for the key immune signaling factor Interleukin-1 Receptor Accessory Protein, shows an independent influence on amyloid accumulation.
The Immune System
The blood product intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, has been found to reduce brain atrophy and cognitive decline in patients in the early, pre-dementia phase of Alzheimer’s disease. Does this tie in with brain inflammation? Is it connected to the genetic finding with IL1RAP? There has been talk of a vaccine in the past. Could IVIG work into an eventual vaccine? All of these possibilities are still being studied.
Multiple Pathways toward Alzheimer’s Disease
A study published recently online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggested that early indicators or biomarkers of Alzheimer’s development are not fixed in a specific sequence. This is not the first study to show such indications. Some researchers feel that it’s a matter of determining the right sequence of events early in the disease. Others feel that there are multiple causes, perhaps unique to the individual.
These are just five of the targets now being studied. More possible targets are coming to light on a regular basis. As frustrating as it is to continually read conflicting news about new discoveries in Alzheimer’s research, these stories indicate that scientists are hard at work trying to find the key to the disease. Each study counts even if it shows negative results. My hope is that global collaboration will speed up the progress to end this nightmare that affects millions worldwide.