Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, one of the major causes of dependency and disability in older adults. Though advances have been made in understanding the harrowing brain disease, diagnostic tests are currently limited and there are no treatments.
The findings could help steer targeted drug design down the line and perhaps pave the way for a practical, less-invasive way to screen for Alzheimer’s, which can lead to such severe cognitive decline that sufferers can lose the ability to recognize loved ones or even communicate at the most basic level.
Published recently in the peer-reviewed journal , the scientists’ study suggests that use of a high-resolution imaging method called “neuromelanin-sensitive MRI” could have promise for predicting the risk of symptoms or guiding future treatment.
“There's evidence that the noradrenergic area of the brain is the part that actually starts accumulating tau first, years prior to the emergence of any symptoms.”
Dr. Clifford Cassidy
— Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine's Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine (CMM)
Their findings confirm previous data that the brain’s noradrenergic system is progressively degenerating with Alzheimer's disease. This brain system is vitally important because it may be the first area affected with Alzheimer's and its pathology is related to the disorder’s symptoms.
“We still don't understand why some people get Alzheimer's and some don't. We don't know why some people are protected and some are vulnerable. So the question is: What makes you vulnerable?” says Dr. Clifford Cassidy, an assistant professor in the Faculty’s Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine (CMM) and a scientist at The Royal's Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR), is the paper’s first author. “It really opens the door to examining these brain systems in humans, in vivo, in pretty much any disorder where it can be relevant.”