One of the most, if not the most devastating mental illness in the world, Alzheimer’s disease, is a form of dementia. The horrible illness causes people to slowly but surely wilt away, until there is nothing of who they used to be left in them. Even worse, their loved ones are forced to see a family member go through that.
The expenses involved in managing the disease are huge, as there is no cure for it yet. Scientists aren’t even sure what causes the cognitive debilitating illness. And like with most diseases, there isn’t a single form of dementia. A new study from the Northwestern University in Illinois proves Alzheimer’s specific amyloid plaques responsible for language dementia.
Also known as primary progressive aphasia or PPA, language dementia manifests as the patients start losing the ability to understand language and to express themselves. Until recently its cause was a mystery, but now a team of researchers managed to get some answers regarding how it happens.
As it turns out, the same protein involved in causing Alzheimer’s disease, plaques of beta amyloid, is also involved in aphasia. When too much amyloid protein accumulates on the left side of the brain (responsible for language processing), the unfortunate individual starts to have an increasingly harder time talking and understanding.
According to Emily Rogalski, the lead investigator in the study,
By understanding where these proteins accumulate first and over time, we can better understand the course of the disease and where to target treatment. It is important to determine what Alzheimer’s looks like in PPA, because if it’s caused by something else, there is no sense in giving a patient an Alzheimer’s related drug, because it would be ineffective.
Rogalski and her team would have never made this huge breakthrough if it weren’t for a new technology. Previously, the only way to detect amyloid plaques in the brain was to do it after the patient had already died. With the new Amyvid Amyloid PET imaging tracer, the plaques can now be detected in the living.
This will prove a huge boon for the research of most forms of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s and aphasia. With the Amyvid’s help, researchers were able to figure out that it’s the exact same type of protein that causes both forms of dementia. Other forms might also be influenced by amyloid plaques.
But even more incredibly useful information was gathered with the new device. Not only are the same proteins responsible for both diseases, but it turns out that where for the rare aphasia only the left hemisphere has a large number of amyloid plaques, the Alzheimer’s brain looks identical, only amyloid is on both hemispheres.
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