What Are Some Promising Areas of Alzheimer's Disease Research?

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So I'd like to see breakthroughs in several directions. One is biomarkers, ways of identifying very early, who's at risk for the disease? How far along they might be in the disease process even if they show no symptoms? That sort of thing, and with any luck, those same bio-markers, those same signs, biologically, metabolically of the disease might be used to determine whether a treatment is working or not, if those markers change. So I think that's a big area, I don't work in that area myself, but I think it deserves a lot of support.

I'd like to see a tremendous amount of effort go into the question of why the cells are dying? And how they die? Because it might be possible to prevent it. I think this issue of the disease spreading from dying cell to healthy neighboring cell is a very important thing and that needs to be pursued vigorously.

And that's a recent discovery. Very recent, within the last year. Mostly by people at Colombia Medical School in New York, and at Harvard Medical School in Boston. I think that if we could understand how the toxic species gets out of the neuron, and into the next neuron, that would be a tremendous breakthrough.

I like the area I'm pursuing, to be honest with you, which is trying to understand how the toxic species is formed, the pathways wherein which it's formed, and seeing if we can tweak those pathways with a drug to divert things away from where the toxic species gets formed. I think that's a promising line of inquiry, though certainly not the only line of inquiry. And I think it would be wonderful if we understood a connection that we really don't understand very deeply right now.

When Alois Alzheimer, a hundred years ago, looked at the brain of the first patient to ever die of Alzheimer's disease as we know it, because it was Alzheimer who looked at the brain, a woman in her 50s, named August Diders early onset Alzheimer's disease. He saw two things, he saw, what is sometimes called senile plaques, which is dense aggregates of protein outside the dying neurons, and inside the neurons, he saw tangles.

The proteins involved in the plaques and tangles were different. And there's some evidence that the plaques formed first and the tangles formed second. And that process is necessary for killing the cell. I would really like to understand what it is about the formation of the plaques that gives rise to the tangles, how they're connected, because in that connection there might be a new way of getting at stopping the disease.