A study recently published in the journal Nature Aging has made a significant advance in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and could change the way this neurodegenerative disease is treated.
By analyzing cerebrospinal fluid from more than 400 patients, an international team of researchers, led by Betty Tijms of the Free University of Amsterdam, discovered that there are five biological variants of Alzheimer’s disease.
These variants not only appear to differ in how they affect the brain, but also in how they may respond to treatments.
This classification is an important step in understanding differences in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease between patients and suggests there is a need to address each variant individually, which could lead to the development of more effective treatments.
Furthermore, the discovery offers hope for earlier diagnosis and the possibility of interventions that delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
By better understanding specific variations in how it affects the brain, researchers can pave the way for more precise therapies and preventive measures tailored to each subtype of this complex disease.
Five subtypes identified
The team led by Tijms carried out an extensive study of proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s patients and control subjects, discovering striking differences between the disease’s subtypes.
These differences range from increased amyloid production in subtype 1 to changes in the blood-brain barrier in subtype 5. Each Alzheimer’s variant has unique characteristics, which suggests that treatment strategies should be specific to each subtype, rather than applying a single solution for everyone.
Additionally, researchers found that each subtype has a distinct genetic risk profile and exhibits variations in clinical outcomes, survival time, and patterns of brain atrophy.
For example, the subtype characterized by hyperplasticity shows an excessive cellular growth response, leading to the accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins. On the other hand, in the subtype with innate immune activation, the immune system excessively attacks healthy brain tissue.
Implications for treatment
This finding is critical because it implies that some medications may only be effective in certain types of Alzheimer’s disease.
Drugs that target amyloid reduction may be beneficial for subtypes with high amyloid production, but may be harmful for subtypes with low amyloid production.
A personalized approach to Alzheimer’s treatment could be fundamental to the development of more effective therapies, adapted to the individual needs of each patient.
Tijms and his team’s findings could be key to developing new Alzheimer’s medications.
If each patient’s variant can be identified, clinical trials could be targeted to test specific drugs for each subtype. This could significantly improve the effectiveness of treatments and open new ways to combat this complex disease.