New study isolates a protein that may identify what causes Alzheimer's.
Researchers have been puzzled for years about why some people get Alzheimer's and some don't. A new study out of Harvard pinpointed a specific protein in the brain that is present in those without the disease, but missing in those with Alzheimer's and other cognitive issues.
REST, the RE1-Silencing Transcription factor, is active during a human's early developmental stages and then kicks back into gear later in life, protecting aging neurons in the brain. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another cognitive disease are thought to have decreased levels of REST.
When the REST is activated, it protects the neurons from various stressors happening in the brain. According to the study's leader, Bruce Yanker, this study increases the possibility that abnormal proteins in the brain may not be the only cause of dementia.
"You may also need a failure of the brain's stress response system," Yanker said in a press release. The results of this study may lead to new treatments in the fight against Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases.
Currently, more than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease. While it does not provide a cure, the study suggests that a person many be able to resist the negative effects of Alzheimer's if REST levels in the body stay high.
"If we could activate this stress resistance gene network with drugs, it might be possible to intervene in the disease quite early," Yanker said.
Alzheimer's commonly impacts people who are in their older years, so delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by even a few years could make a significant impact on their lives.
A separate study from Temple University's School of Medicine found that chronic sleep disturbance could increase the speed at which the disease impacts a person. Another study found that a blood test could detect, with about 90 percent accuracy, the likelihood that an individual will develop the Alzheimer's disease.
As the number of individuals with the disease increases, researchers are under pressure to find a cure. While no study has found a cure yet, researchers are confident that studies that focus on preventative measures are an important factor on the road to finding a cure.