This three-part series reveals the heartache for those suffering from and coping with Alzheimer's disease and the hope offered by UCLA researchers leading the charge to slow its progress and, eventually, find a cure. The series also profiles a growing network of caregiver support groups established by Patti Davis, daughter of President Ronald Reagan, and television personality Leeza Gibbons, who lost her mother to the disease.
Findings provide target for new classes of therapeutic drugs.
Scientists have long suspected that Alzheimer's disease is caused by plaques formed when the small protein amyloid-beta (Aß) binds to itself in clusters and undergoes a chemical change, creating protein deposits in the brain.
However, recent studies have suggested it is not the plaques that cause Alzheimer's but the small, grape-like clusters of Aß. The clusters vary in size, and the relationship between cluster size and toxicity — the ability to kill nerve cells — has never been determined accurately.
Researchers discover how compounds found in wine thwart disease in mice
Scientists call it the "French paradox" — a society that, despite consuming food high in cholesterol and saturated fats, has long had low death rates from heart disease. Research has suggested it is the red wine consumed with all that fatty food that may be beneficial — and not only for cardiovascular health but in warding off certain tumors and even Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists from UCLA recently pinpointed a possible physical origin of Alzheimer's disease. The amyloid-beta protein has long been known to clump in the brain and be involved in the progression of the disease. The UCLA team identified a loop in the protein that is likely to enable amyloid-beta's adhesion process. This discovery suggests new ways to treat the disorder's cause, rather than just the symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of late-life dementia. It is estimated to affect 24 million people worldwide, and half of the people over 85 may suffer from it. This fatal disorder is characterized by a decline in the individuals' memory and in their ability to think and function independently. Current drugs treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's but not the underlying cause of the disease.