The human brain has an estimated 100 billion neurons. Extending from each of them is a long fiber, known as an “axon,” which can run several feet. Each axon forms a connection, known as a “synapse” with another neuron, creating a circuit over which brain signals travel.
In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), individual neurons die and do not regenerate. The loss of synapses correlates greatly with the loss of cognitive function.
Sometimes, if a circuit is too damaged to connect by the most direct route, signaling can take detours, leading to indirect neural pathways. It’s not until the network completely breaks down that the worst AD symptoms—like forgetting loved ones or becoming lost in familiar places—begin to occur.
Scientists are studying the brain’s many cells and circuits, looking for ways to preserve communications for as long as possible after the onset of AD.
Explore More of Our 360° Research Approach
- Tangling with Tau
- Battling Amyloid Beta
- Blood and the Brain in Dementia
- Immunity and Inflammation
- Biology of APO E and Lipids
- New Approaches
Genes are the “master blueprint” that instructs our cells to make unique proteins which in turn build, operate, and repair human tissue. Humans have an estimated 24,000 genes along our 23 matched pairs of chromosomes (46 in all), and “genomics” refers to the field that studies all of them at once.
A biological marker (biomarker) is a measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of some phenomenon such as disease or infection. Biomarkers can help doctors and scientists diagnose diseases and health conditions, find health risks in a person, monitor responses to treatment, and see how a person's disease or health condition changes over time.
Tangling with Tau
Tau is a small protein with a short name but a large reputation because of its association with multiple brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The tau protein is predominantly found in brain cells (neurons).
Battling Amyloid Beta
There are many versions of amyloid protein in the human body, and most serve a useful role. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the accumulation of amyloid plaques (abnormally configured proteins) between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
Blood and the Brain in Dementia
Scientists are interested in developing a screening tool for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in blood. A simple blood draw is much less invasive than a spinal tap and may prove more cost effective. Developing blood biomarkers that accurately depict brain changes has proven challenging, as levels of AD hallmark proteins in the blood are low, but there are some very recent promising results observing tau and the ratio of Aβ42 and Aβ40.
Immunity and Inflammation
One theory about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is that it may be triggered, in part, by a breakdown in the brain’s immune system.
Biology of APO E and Lipids
Alzheimer's disease (AD). Its primary function is to regulate a class of proteins involved in the metabolism of fats (lipids) in the body. However, APOE has several common variants (or "alleles") whose effects vary.
Years of innovative and dedicated research have paid off with the discovery of numerous factors contributing to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology. With a disease as complex as this one, it’s very helpful to find multiple points where it may be possible to slow or halt its progress.