Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Really Causes Alzheimer's?

I'm puzzled. Just this spring I read that a researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine had discovered that amyloid plaques were probably not the cause of Alzheimer's. Therefore, removing plaques would not help patients. In fact, it might even hurt. Dr. Sam Gandy, who is the lead researcher, says it's floating clumps of protein that are destroying the neural pathways involved with learning and memory. He says science should be working on pursuing this new hypothesis -- the "abeta oligomer hypothesis" -- rather than the "amyloid beta" hypothesis that most drug research is focusing on.

 The articles I read online in AARP magazine and medicinenet.com were very compelling, explaining how Dr. Gandy used mice to make his discovery. The research even indicated that plaques might be the body's mechanism to protect the brain from the damaging floating protein. I thought I'd be reading more about this exciting, hopeful research. But no.

Instead, I've been reading about huge drug trials from big pharma intent on studying the removal of plaque. The New York Times had a front page article on July 17, 2010, on new ways to test for Alzheimer's, new drug studies and how the FDA is slowing the studies up. The FDA is saying that it's one thing for a medicine to make plaque disappear, but what they want is for the memory of the people taking the drug to improve (or at least not continue to deteriorate). Hooray for the FDA. This makes perfect sense. But why weren't the FDA and Times also talking about Dr. Gandy's research? Why aren't drug companies shifting over to test drugs that fight the abeta oligomer?

I'm baffled. If anyone out there reads this and can shed light on this, please let me know. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. My mother had dementia from a stroke. I know first hand how devastating dementia can be.  
Here are links to the various articles I've cite here:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=115821


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/17/health/research/17drug.html


http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-05-2010/alzheimers_disease.html

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