The New Hot Topic of Overlapping Diseases
In previous conferences even though scientists were meeting to share information about Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, each disease group met separately – all these researchers under one roof, yet in different rooms. However, these mixed diseases have brought everyone to the same table. In particular, diseases such as frontotemporal dementias (as opposed to the hippocampal shrinkage of Alzheimer’s) are drawing intense interest as biomarker development branches out beyond amyloid-â and tau. Individual cases can now be evaluated as falling on a continuum, rather than fitting into a neat, specific box that a doctor checks off. This means that the view of the diagnosing doctor will change to deal with mixed cases. In the future a diagnosis can identify the offending proteins that combine to cause a person's “individual” disease.
James Galvin of Washington University, St. Louis asserts that “In time, we will shift away from relying on clinical categorization to make diagnoses.” “We will make protein diagnoses. The way to get there is to understand underlying pathways and to develop a range of biomarkers.”
There is a need for protein markers to sort out the variety of these diseases. For example, scientists are realizing that what might seem like one disease actually has multiple causes. New studies of Parkinson disease patients are noticing the gene for Gaucher disease as well as a variant of the protein tau. In another instance a disease mutation in the gene progranulin could show up as frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s, or even Alzheimer’s in members of the same family.
Don’t worry about this new complex finding. It will lead to proper treatment through greater pooling of scientific resources. Alzheimer’s treatment is already focusing on fusion therapies. This makes another case to pursue this exciting new direction.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show