Researchers found that Alzheimer’s disease develops in a very different way than previously thought. An international team led by the University of Cambridge discovered Alzheimer’s disease reaches different regions of the brain early and is not starting from a single point. How quickly the disease kills cells in these regions, through the production of toxic protein clusters, limits how quickly the disease progresses overall. The researchers observed that the mechanism controlling the rate of progression in Alzheimer’s disease is the replication of aggregates in individual regions of the brain, and not the spread of aggregates (containing some specific proteins) from one region to another. The discovery changes ways that future treatments might be developed. “The thinking had been that Alzheimer’s develops in a way that’s similar to many cancers: the aggregates form in one region and then spread through the brain. But instead, we found that when Alzheimer’s starts there are already aggregates in multiple regions of the brain, and so trying to stop the spread between regions will do little to slow the disease, ” Dr Georg Meisl from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, the paper’s first author, explained.
“This research shows the value of working with human data instead of imperfect animal models,” said co-senior author Professor Tuomas Knowles. Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 44 million people worldwide. The new perspective on the severe brain disease could help to find solutions. The answer is in the future and we all want to have it soon.