More than 55 million people across the world currently live with dementia. The figure is expected to grow due to population growth and aging. However, despite the prevalence, there is no cure and there aren’t many effective treatments. New research may have turned up a reason why treatment seems to be so difficult, though.
A multi-institutional study involving researchers from five countries recently investigated how cerebrospinal fluid differs among Alzheimer’s patients. The team explains that these patients already have different protein levels compared with their cognitively healthy peers. The findings, published in the journal Nature Aging, show that patients themselves don’t have the same levels. In fact, the team found five different ways in which these proteins can present in Alzheimer’s patients. This may mean there are five different subtypes, which could explain why a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment wouldn’t work.
The research focused on more than 1,000 proteins known to differ in Alzheimer’s patients compared to their peers. The team investigated these proteins in 419 Alzheimer’s patients and 187 members of a control group. They found multiple different patterns within the fluid of Alzheimer’s patients.
These patterns boiled down to five different subtypes, each with a unique genetic profile. Subtype 1 had different levels of neuronal hyperplasticity-related proteins, along with more amyloid protein production. In subtype 2, there was a difference in proteins linked with innate immune system activation. Subtype 3 was associated with RNA dysregulation. For subtype 4, there was dysfunction in the area where cerebrospinal fluid is made, while subtype 5 patients had issues with the blood-brain barrier and reduced levels of amyloid production.
The researchers say that if there are five subtypes, that could mean patients need treatment tailored to the type that they have. This may be encouraging for patient outcomes in the future. If the findings are replicated, the team hopes that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can get tests determining which subtype they may have early on.
To read the whole study, click here.