Hundreds of thousands of older people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may, in fact, be suffering from a different disease. According to new research, the condition, known as Late, affects a fifth of people over 85. Like Alzheimer’s, Late leads to memory loss, cognitive decline and mood disorders (although its progress tends to be slower). The disease’s neurology, however, is very different: rather than deposits of sticky amyloid plaques and tau proteins, the brains of Late sufferers contain a misshapen form of a different protein, TDP-43. “Those who work on dementia have long been puzzled by patients who have all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but whose brains do not contain the pathological features of the condition,” says Professor Robert Howard of University College London. “We now know that these puzzling patients are probably suffering from Late”. The authors of the study say Late’s discovery could help explain why attempts to find a treatment for Alzheimer’s haven’t been more successful. Trials of drugs based on clearing out amyloid plaques have probably included significant numbers of participants who had Late, and not Alzheimer’s – which would have skewed the results. (The Times and The Week, 11 May 2019)
For those “late” in life memory loss and confusion are particularly scary. Recently, trying to resurrect a TV streaming system I hadn’t used for months, I stood there without a solitary idea as to how to set about it – what to plug into what or the baffling sequence of buttons to press on the two quite different TV gizmos. Rescued by a clever wife we got the system working. I mention this not only to praise a wife with a memory, but to protest about the complexity of everything we have to do these days, and the wide gap between people like me and the young people who write the instructions, for whom this stuff is as simple as eating breakfast. A big “thank you” to scientists and medical researchers. Your work is so often disrespected on social media, but I, for one, am glad you are out there.