Brigham and Women's Hospital is home to international scientific leaders at the forefront of Alzheimer's disease research. Over the past twenty-five years, we have learned much about the pathology of Alzheimer's disease - and have put forth many theories about why neurons become dysfunctional and die and why memories are erased. Researchers have even identified a particular gene, ApoE4 - which incidentally is carried by approximately 25% of Americans - that seems to put people at a higher risk for developing the disease. We now understand that the damage done to the brain by Alzheimer's disease begins long before the onset of symptoms, and is not a sudden brain catastrophe of old age. Rather, it is a continuum of disease that spans decades and may be influenced by early, midlife, and late-life factors such as nutrition, infection, education, diabetes, and mental and physical activity.
At BWH, Dennis J. Selkoe, MD, universally recognized as one of the world's preeminent researchers into Alzheimer's disease, helped construct the knowledge base of amyloid-beta protein that has driven much of the research to date. Today, Dr. Selkoe and his talented colleagues are conducting promising new basic and translational research that will address three major unsolved questions about Alzheimer's disease:
- Defining the molecular origins of Alzheimer's disease
- Developing novel imaging and fluid diagnostics
- Carrying out clinical trials of experimental vaccines and drugs
Prospects for making significant progress in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease have never been greater or more promising. The medical landscape is constantly being re-shaped by a tidal wave of knowledge in genetics and genomics, innovative approaches to drug discovery, powerful imaging tools and advanced technologies for monitoring and treating this disease.