Lines of research into Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is a complicated illness and the causes of which are still unknown. Several lines of research are currently open, both clinical (which study the disease in healthy subjects as well as in patients) and preclinical or basic trials. Some of these lines are:

  • Studies into anti-β-amyloid and anti-tau protein drugs. β-amyloid and tau proteins accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. There are currently various studies into drugs designed to treat patients in early stages of the disease by reducing the accumulation of these proteins and therefore preventing further neurodegeneration.
  • Studies into the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease prior to the onset of symptoms. Alzheimer’s starts to develop in the brain decades before the patient initially presents any symptoms. Theses stages of the disease that go unnoticed by the patient are known as the preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s disease. The progressive accumulation of proteins and subtle changes in brain structure that occur during this preclinical stage have been observed with the aid of advanced brain MRI techniques. Thanks to our increasing knowledge of the preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s disease, trials into experimental treatments have got underway with the aim of preventing the onset of symptoms in cognitively normal individuals whose brains have started to accumulate the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s.
  • Studies into the relationship between ageing and Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases increases with age but not all elderly people develop these diseases. Information about the relationship between ageing and degenerative diseases, and why some people develop these diseases and others do not, could help clarify their causes.
  • Characterisation of families with genetic Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with genetic Alzheimer’s disease are born with a genetic defect, although the disease does not manifest until decades later. Studying people who are born with this genetic mutation, but who have not yet presented any symptoms, sheds light on how and when Alzheimer’s starts to develop in the brain and the effects of drugs in these very early stages.
  • Studies into the effect of inflammation on Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with Alzheimer’s experience inflammatory processes in the brain, but scientists are still unsure how this inflammation influences the disease. If we can understand the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease, then it may help determine whether anti-inflammatory therapies make suitable treatments.

Substantiated information by:

Neus Falgas Martínez
Raquel Sanchez del Valle Díaz
Soledad Barreiro Gigan

Published: 9 April 2018
Updated: 9 April 2018

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