Toward the middle of April, doctors at the University of Kentucky Medical Center released a report about a new type of dementia they discovered, one that often gets mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease.
What is it?
This newly discovered type of dementia is known as LATE. It’s an acronym for limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy. The name is a reference to the area in the brain that is most likely to be affected. It also references the protein that’s at the heart of it all.
Unlike Alzheimer’s or Lewy body dementia, LATE has a completely different glop than the formerly mentioned diseases. A glop is a type of protein that is found when the disease is present. With LATE, TDP-43 is the protein that’s involved, a completely different protein than found in people with Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia, or any other type of cognitive brain disease. This is how researchers were able to discover it.
The issue lies in the confusion with Alzheimer’s and LATE. Before LATE was discovered, people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Some of these people may actually have LATE, which means that any medication they have been on may not be effective. Researchers are looking into this. But the idea of this comes from a patient that was on a trial drug and still developed dementia, even though it seemed to be working for other trial participants. The problem was actually that the person didn’t have Alzheimer’s at all, but actually had LATE, rendering the drug ineffective.
Research is still ongoing for LATE, but because it’s new, researchers have to start from the beginning, putting back years of Alzheimer’s research that may have flawed because of incorrect diagnoses, to no fault of researchers.
Researchers suggest that based on autopsy studies, between 20% and 50% of seniors over the age of 80 with have brain changes associated with LATE, and that percentage only gets higher the older they get. To what degree LATE will affect seniors is still being researched, however.
Researchers are looking into issues with the heterogeneity of the various dementia diseases, or rather, the various types. They’re looking for why one type begins by affecting language, while another type affects memory. With the newly discovered addition of LATE, this can give researchers a broader picture of why certain things happen to certain people with the disease.
No matter what was recently discovered, it may be years before more research is released, trials begin, and answers start coming in. All the while, there’s a possibility of other types of dementia being discovered, further complicating the previous research.
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