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Discovery offers hope for early treatment of Alzheimer's

By Deane Morrison

June 13, 2006

Among the most heartbreaking afflictions is Alzheimer's disease (AD), a severe and insidious memory disorder that cloaks the early clues to its presence in the garb of normal age-related memory impairment. It was once thought that numerous insoluble clumps, or plaques, of protein that form in the brains of AD patients caused the disease. But it turns out that plaques of the protein known as A beta are not the cause.

The culprit appears to be a soluble aggregate form of the protein, according to a research team led by the University's Karen Ashe. The work, published in the journal Nature, identifies this form of the protein as a possible future target for therapies to defeat the disease before it causes irreversible damage.