Research highlights under-recognised, more severe form of dementia

Research highlights a complex and under-recognised form of dementia.

researcher holds up brain scans

A complex and under-recognised form of dementia, which could be more severe than other more well-known forms, has been identified by researchers from the University of Kentucky.

According to Associate Professor Erin Abner, who helped lead the study, while symptoms can be similar to Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Alzheimer’s is always the cause.

“One of the things that we’ve learnt in the last decade or so is that a lot of people that we think have dementia from Alzheimer’s disease, actually don’t,” Assoc. Prof. Abner said.

“There are other brain diseases that cause the same kind of symptoms as Alzheimer’s, including some that we only recently figured out existed.”

The research used brain autopsy data from 375 older adults at the University of Kentucky’s brain bank and built on work done last year by Dr Peter Nelson, which discovered another form of dementia now known as LATE.

This latest research focuses on the misfolded TDP-43 protein, which was discovered in 2006, as the ‘newest brain bad guy’.

Assoc. Prof. Abner explained that although TDP-43 exists normally in a non-disease-causing form, it is seen in multiple debilitating diseases in addition to LATE, including frontotemporal dementia.

When the team reviewed clinical and brain autopsy data for research participants, they noticed there were significantly more people than expected who had not only Alzheimer’s pathology, but also pathology indicating the ‘new brain bad guy’.

“They had every neurodegeneration-causing pathology that we know about. There was not a name for this, so we came up with one: quadruple misfolded proteins, or QMP,” explained Assoc. Prof. Abner.

The group then obtained more data to conduct a study of how often QMP occurred and what that meant for the participant with QMP.

The study found that about 20 per cent of the participants with dementia had QMP, and their dementia was the most severe. 

“This is not great news, because it means that even if we could completely cure Alzheimer’s disease, we still have to deal with TDP-43.

“But we have to understand exactly what we are up against as we try to stop dementia. We still have so much to learn.”

Do you think scientists will eventually be able to stop all brain degenerating diseases?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    2nd Jul 2020
    Do we really need to know this cheery bit of new news?
    Thanks YLC ......
    2nd Jul 2020
    yes, easy enough to not read it if upsetting or uninterested.
    Dave R
    2nd Jul 2020
    I doubt if they will ever eliminate degeneration.
    Doing so would mean ending the aging process.
    2nd Jul 2020
    My husband died at 59, 11years ago witha fairly rare form, called PSP. Progressive Supranuclear Palsey. No one knew much about other than he kept falling backwards, hitting his head and appeared drunk, he had trouble swallowing , chocking alot, and just started stareing like he didnt know you. He used 1 ventolin a week so he could breath, it was a terrible death, in palletive care. He had it for many years i just didn’t pick up the signs,i used to accuse him of being drunk. Poor buggar.
    2nd Jul 2020
    My husband has Lewy Body Dementia, caused mainly by mini strokes, and two major cancer operations where the anaesthetic for many hours, and delirium after. BUT 15 years after the first operation he is still walking his beloved Jack Russell and goes to the Gym and has all the carers ( including me!) that he could hope for. Life isn't what it could've been BUT if you keep your sense of humour and get on with what life has dished up and remember to LOVE and give lots of hugs you can get through these things. My heart goes out to those who have loved and lost their loved ones.
    2nd Jul 2020
    My husband has severe Alzheimer’s Disease and has been in a nursing home for the past 3 years. Prior to this he was at home for 6 years until we could no longer look after him. Any form of dementia is cruel to both the person who has it and the carers (especially if it’s family members). It takes away a person’s dignity and quality of life.

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