A type of dementia that could be more common than Alzheimer’s in the older adults has been newly outlined by clinicians. This late-onset dementia, called LATE, have symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s, but has a different cause. Now, researchers have proposed set of criteria that could be used to tell the two conditions apart. The international team of researchers has published their findings in the journal Brain.
Limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, or LATE for short, is marked by weakening recollection and deterioration in thinking and social skills. The full name references the area in the brain most likely to be affected and the protein that is believed to be causing the trouble. The brains of people who develop LATE don’t contain the aberrant proteins amyloid beta or tau, proteins that are typical biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease.
The differences between LATE and Alzheimer’s disease are subtle. Some of the biggest differences between the two are the average age of onset and the rate of cognitive decline. LATE tends to start later in life than Alzheimer’s and the rate of decline is slower. In an MRI, the pattern of nerve damage seen with LATE is slightly different from that seen in Alzheimer’s.
While the condition’s name is new, reports of patients who didn’t quite fit the mold for known types of dementia have been coming in for decades. Researchers eventually found that the TDP-43 protein could be the culprit. Since that discovery, the protein has been linked to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as another type of dementia called frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Dementia is set to be a growing problem in a world with an ageing population. Already, about 75 percent of people get Alzheimer’s disease and LATE affects more than 1 million Americans. Medications designed to treat Alzheimer’s disease will have little effect on a disease caused by the TDP-43 protein. Having a way to separate the conditions could be a major win for researchers and make drug trials for promising treatments more effective.