Headlines across the globe have hit newspapers in the last three weeks.
“A new type of dementia that has been identified”. The actual findings were published in the peer-review journal Brain. The study, conducted by a team of 22 international researchers, was led by Dr. Peter Nelson of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky.
Although the headlines may instill a sense of fear or dread for many, this discovery does not currently increase the number of cases of dementia. Instead, it redefines the cases that have already been diagnosed.
Two weeks earlier, at the National Institute of Health’s 2019 “Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia’s” (ADRD) Summit, in Washington D.C., Dr. Nelson and his team unveiled their paper on “TDP-43” dementia, (Transactive Response DNA binding protein 43),
Another, simpler name for this dementia is “LATE”, which stands for “Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy”. The name combines conditions that have been associated with a specific protein that damages areas of the brain. But whether called TDP-43 or LATE, it is the same dementia.
Usually, when someone experiences memory loss, the knee-jerk reaction is to assume it is Alzheimer’s. Now, what is being realized is that the memory loss, and other cognitive impairments could actually be other types of dementia, including LATE.
“More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold,” said Dr. Nelson, “So why would we think there is just one cause of dementia?”
In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by an accumulation of 2 types of protein, tau and amyloid beta, in the brain. LATE is thought to be caused by the TDP-43 protein, which is usually present in the center of nerve cells.
With this announcement, researchers say it may explain why some recent trials of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have been unsuccessful. They say treatments may have effectively treated the proteins that cause damage in Alzheimer’s disease, but LATE may have continued, hiding any improvements to Alzheimer’s symptoms and deterred the research findings.
In fact, it is very likely that many of the people who enrolled in earlier clinical trials for Alzheimer’s drugs did not this form of dementia at all.
The group’s work establishes that like Alzheimer’s disease, LATE affects multiple areas of cognition, ultimately impairing activities of daily life, but it appears that LATE progresses more gradually than most dementias.
In many cases, there may be a combination of LATE with other types of dementia. But it is believed to effect from 20%- 50% of people over the age of 80. Although it may possibly begin decades earlier.
“Recent research and clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease have taught us two things: First, not all of the people we thought had Alzheimer’s have it; second, it is very important to understand the other contributors to dementia,” said Nina Silverberg, Ph.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers Program at National Institute on Aging (NIA), after the research was presented.
This article is published in the June 2019 Prime Time for Seniors – CLICK HERE