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Scientists find there are five subtypes of Alzheimer’s

an elderly man touching his head

New research has revealed there are five types of Alzheimers disease which could explain why certain drugs are not effective on some patients.

Scientists at Alzheimer Centre Amsterdam, Amsterdam University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, studied the cerebrospinal fluid found in more than 400 people living with the condition.

Each protein had their own life expectancy and clinical progression broken up into five separate sub-types, which was, up until recently, believed to be just one.

The discovery could lead to more effective treatments which target Alzheimer’s disease, the world’s most common neurodegenerative disorder.

Researchers collected cerebrospinal fluid that formed in the tissue around the brain and spinal cord, examining the liquid for 1,058 proteins before comparing the results with the 419 patients to find there are five individual subtypes of Alzheimer’s.

One type causes an unusual high level of brain cell growth which forms abnormal proteins that lead to the disease. Those with this specific illness have the longer life expectancy in Alzheimer’s patients living for an average of nine years after being diagnosed.

A second variation is steered by the brain’s internal immune system, a third was traced back to problems triggered by how the brain produces protein.

Another type was associated with the brain’s blood supply, a fifth was connected with the border of cells, known as the blood-brain barrier, that are supposed to stop larger substances reaching the delicate tissue of the brain.

People living with the second and forth variations had the slowest progression, but those with subtype three were expected to live five-and-a-half years, on average, after being diagnosed.

Reporting on the study journal Nature Aging said: "For example, while antibodies may more easily cross the blood–brain barrier in subtype 5, these individuals may be at increased risk for cerebral bleeding that can occur with antibody treatment.”

[ For advice and information on Alzheimer’s visit the Alzheimer’s Society website. ]

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