June 21st is not only the longest day of the calendar year, but it is also a special day focused on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an irreversible progressive form of dementia that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.
The challenges of living with AD make each day the “longest” in terms of sheer survival. The Longest Day is meant to pay tribute to those suffering from AD and their loved ones and caregivers; to raise awareness of the challenges that come with a diagnosis of AD; and to raise funds for continued AD research.
Today an estimated 5 million Americans have AD. With that figure expected to quadruple in the next 30 years, there’s a growing need to find a way to prevent or stop progression of this devastating disease.
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers are hard at work trying to learn more about the disease. Here are a few examples of their recent discoveries:
- Abnormal accumulation of tau and amyloid beta proteins in the human brain are two characteristics of AD. In a recent study using advanced imaging techniques, lead author Jorge Sepulcre, MD, PHD, of the Gordon Center for Medical Imaging, looked at the distribution of tau and amyloid beta deposits in the brains of elderly, cognitively normal individuals. Read how the clues his team found about the spreading pathways of AD could help researchers one day identify a specific target to try and stop the disease’s progression.
- Could the development of amyloid beta plaques in the brain be a response to infection? Mass General researchers Rudy Tanzi and Robert Moir are investigating amyloid beta’s role in the body. Their findings could possibly open new fronts for treating or preventing AD by attacking infection before plaques begin to form.
- New research from the Mass General Epilepsy Service suggests a potential connection between the devastating memory loss associated with AD and “silent” seizures in the memory center of the brain. Learn how this discovery could lead to potential new treatment options for patients with AD.
- If you are wondering about your risk of developing AD, the answer may be found right under your nose. A team from the Center for Alzheimer’s Research has developed a series of four tests designed to measure early indications of AD based on an individual’s ability to recognize, remember and distinguish among odors. Learn more about the tests.