According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and experts anticipate the number will increase dramatically over the next several decades unless a cure is found.
A recent Mayo Clinic study found a toxic interaction between proteins may be responsible for a toxic cellular process that can damage the health of neurons and lead to dementia. The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sought to uncover the relationship between a protein known as TDP-43 and another known as progranulin.
The team found that subjects who have low levels of TDP-43 are at a greater risk for suffering damage to important brain cells. “We found a lack of TDP-43 disrupts the cellular process called RNA splicing that precedes protein synthesis, resulting in the generation of a defective sortilin protein,” said lead investigator Dr. Mercedes Prudencio. “More important, the defective sortilin binds to progranulin and as a result deprives neurons of progranulin’s protective effects that stave off the cell death associated with disease.”
The findings are significant because it provides pathways to potential new treatments for dementia. Combating dementia is certainly difficult for senior care providers, but researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently revealed six ways to potentially better manage the disease. Perhaps most importantly, they suggest devising a treatment plan that does not necessarily include a pharmaceutical step. For instance, taking daily walks and encouraging social activities will help dementia patients reduce the risk of depression and improve their feelings of well-being.
It’s also key for dementia care providers to track changes to their patients’ behaviors. Assessing new symptoms on a regular basis can help clinicians better treat the disease based on each individual case as well as gauge the effectiveness of the current treatment model.