Approximately 32 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that causes memory loss and other cognitive problems.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers are still not entirely sure what exactly causes the disease. There are some medications that help manage symptoms and potentially slow the progression of the disease.
Scientists from the medical centers of the University of Amsterdam and Maastricht University in the Netherlands have identified five biological variants of Alzheimer’s disease. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature AgingTrusted Source. Researchers believe that this discovery may affect how future treatments for Alzheimer’s disease will be developed and prescribed, writes Medical News Today.
Although scientists currently do not know the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease, most of them agree that the disease is characterized by the formation of beta-amyloid and tau protein.
Dr. Betty Times, associate professor of neurology, brain imaging and neurodegeneration at the University of Amsterdam Medical Centers and lead author of the study, said she and her team decided to investigate other biological processes that may also affect Alzheimer’s disease.
“This was difficult to do because the human brain is not easily accessible. New methods have made it possible to measure many proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid, and the levels of these proteins give a detailed picture of the processes that take place in the brain.
So we used these innovations to investigate whether we can identify specific subgroups of Alzheimer’s patients who have distinct biological processes underlying the disease” says Betty Times.
What are the 5 biological variants of Alzheimer’s disease?
Scientists studied a little more than a thousand proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid of 419 people with Alzheimer’s disease and discovered five biological variants of the disease.
According to Dr. Times, the first subtype was characterized abnormal growth of nerve cells.
The second subtype had a hyperactive immune system that worsened the course of the diseaseand the third subtype had problems with protein synthesis – violation of ribonucleic acid metabolism (RBK).
The fourth subtype of the disease had damage in the vascular plexus of the brain, which produces cerebrospinal fluid. And the fifth subtype showed cerebrospinal fluid leak through the blood-brain barrier.
The results of the study can affect the development of drugs – scientists
The researchers believe that these findings may affect the future development and prescribing of drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.
“The existence of these subtypes of the disease suggests that each of them may require different treatment. Future trials should take this into account and test treatments on subtypes that match the drug’s mechanism of action.
In addition, any future study of Alzheimer’s disease should be delineated into subtypes so that it can be determined which ones respond best to treatment. Future trials should also take into account that side effects from drugs in different subtypes may differ” explained Peter Jelle Visser, professor of molecular epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and senior author of the study.
According to Dr. Karen D. Sullivan, a board-certified neuropsychologist, this research is “extremely encouraging.”
“In some patients, there is a slow and steady deterioration of the disease, while in others the disease progresses rapidly. In some, symptoms with memory impairment predominate, and in others, visual and spatial disturbances are observed. Identifying these five specific subtypes of Alzheimer’s disease is a necessary starting point for a personalized treatment approach for each subtype“, she noted.
Dr. Jennifer Bramen, a senior research fellow at the Pacific Institute of Neurology in Santa Monica, California, who was not involved in the current study, believes that if the study authors are correct in their hypothesis that different variants of Alzheimer’s disease may respond differently to treatment , there is an opportunity to review drugs that were promising in previous studies, but generally proved to be ineffective.
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