Findings presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, included:
-- Changes in brain function occur many years before symptoms in people with Alzheimer's disease; these changes could be detected by PET scans and might one day be used to identify people at risk for developing the disease.
-- A new drug that targets biochemical changes in proteins improved symptoms and increased survival in a mouse model of Alzheimer's, but just how it works is a mystery.
-- Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and dementia with lewy bodies (abnormal collections of protein inside nerve cells) have specific molecular signatures caused by epigenetics (mechanisms that determine how and when DNA is expressed, that could assist in accurate diagnosis and earlier treatment).
-- A new mouse model for Alzheimer's gives researchers more control over an Alzheimer's-related protein in mice and could lead to better research on effective treatments.
"Being able to detect Alzheimer's early, perhaps even before symptoms begin, is an essential pre-condition if we are to develop effective treatments that slow or stop the changes that occur in the brain during Alzheimer's. Our studies in mice already tell us this," Dr. Sam Gandy of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City said in a statement. "Being able to distinguish Alzheimer's from other neurodegenerative diseases will help us give the right treatments to the right patients."