Researchers recently pinpointed another form of cognitive decline with many of the same hallmarks as Alzheimer’s, but which actually involves different brain processes. This newly discovered dementia may partly explain why some people haven’t been helped by current Alzheimer’s drugs or why some drugs being tested haven’t been as successful as scientists have hoped.
The disorder, dubbed “LATE,” stands for limbic-predominate age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy. Like Alzheimer’s, LATE affects short-term memory and causes cognitive impairment. It also shares some of the same disease traits as frontotemporal dementia. However, LATE affects a different brain protein than those associated with Alzheimer’s and mostly occurs in people older than 80, according to a working paper developed by researchers at the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.
For now, determining whether someone may have the LATE form of dementia is more a process of elimination than a definitive diagnosis, after testing eliminates conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. The lack of diagnostic tools will have a massive impact on our public health system, one of the authors says. “It’s causing so much strain, not only on patients, but on the caretakers; it’s brutal,” he says. “It’s something we really need to address.”
In the meantime, what can you do if you suspect a client or loved one may have LATE rather than Alzheimer’s dementia? If you feel that person isn’t responding well to a medication for Alzheimer’s, don’t be afraid to question whether it could be something else, another author says. And, he cautions, existing Alzheimer’s therapies can only slow progress of the disease in some people; they can’t prevent or cure it.
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