No one knows for sure what causes Alzheimer’s, but a group of scientists from the US, Canada and Australia have taken a new approach in trying to figure out what is wrong in the brain of the person affected by the disease – studying the healthy one first, so that they can have something to compare it to.
Scientists do have two (2) main suspects, but no definitive, universally accepted proof – the gunky amyloid in those brain plaques or tangles of a protein named tau that clog dying brain cells. New imaging can spot those tangles in living brains. It has proven rather useful as it has been providing a chance to finally better understand what triggers dementia.
A group of researchers have recently started adding tau brain scans to an innovative and ambitious study that is currently testing if an experimental drug might help healthy but still at-risk patients avoid being consumed altogether by Alzheimer’s.
Regardless of what the results will be, whether it proves to be a success, or a failure, doctors are still set to benefit from it as it is the first ever drug study where scientists can track both how Alzheimer’s behaves initially, and how it behaves in older adults before memory ever slips.
Dr. Reisa Sperling of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and co-authror gave a statement saying “To see it in life is really striking The combination of amyloid and tau is really the toxic duo. To see it in life is really striking”.
Roughly 1.000 healthy seniors will be asked to participate in the new, innovative – A4 study (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s).
One such example is 77 year old Judith Chase Gilbert from Virginia. She is a government worker who recently retires and is mentally agile. Unfortunately, the study did show her brain harbors amyloid buildup that might increase her risk.
Gilbert is one of the first people to have her brain scanned for tau, something that is still very new to the researchers themselves.
Maria Carrillo of the Alzheimer’s Association admitted that while researchers know that tau starts entering the picture at some point, they don’t know when exactly. They don’t know how that interaction happens, however that’s what the study aims to answer.
The Scientists suggest that Alzheimer’s treatment may fail longterm more than succeed due to the late detection of the disease. One theory is that Alzheimer’s actually starts attacking the brain for more than a decade before symptoms start to appear. If it were to be detected in this faze, scientists believe that medina would work much better in easing symptoms.
For the A4 scientists will aim to examine roughly 500 people for tau three times over the three-year study, in an attempt to try and understand how it forms in poeple who are still healthy.
As a measure of control, they will also be using a placebo.
If the experimental drug proves to be helpful, it might be tamping down amyloid formation, which which then reins in toxic tau. R. Scott Turner, doctor at the Georgetown University Medical Center, explained that what researchders are trying to do is to remove amyloid’s downstream effects on tau formation.
Image Source: alz.org