According to a new study, the onsets of a rare form of dementia can lead to language loss in many elderly people. By taking a look into the brains of people with this rare form of dementia (called progressive aphasia), doctors and scientists were able to find out more about the symptoms and problems many people who have the disease will experience.
Progressive aphasia (PPA) is caused by an accumulation of toxic proteins that block tunnels in the brain. These are pretty much the same toxins that cause Alzheimer’s disease. It leads to the loss of most of the person’s communication skills. In the case of PPA, the first symptom will be the loss of language skills.
To discover the onsets of PPA, scientists used a unique imaging technique. When they took a look inside each of the people’s brains that had already contracted the disease, scientists saw that patients with PPA had a larger collection of toxic proteins on the left side of the brain. The left side is the side of the brain connected with a person’s language skills. Patients with Alzheimer’s have a buildup of toxic proteins on both sides of the brain (it is less concentrated).
In the past, the accumulation of the toxic proteins in patients with PPA and Alzheimer’s could only be studied once the person’s health has already declined significantly. However, the newer unique technology used to find this latest information has made it possible to see where the toxic proteins have accumulated early on.
The new technology, called Amyloid PET, can significantly help doctors be able to assist in treatment for patients with dementia. Being able to study patients while they are still alive will lead to better treatment options for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. It will also give doctors the ability to discover PPA separately from Alzheimer’s, which will help determine what kind of treatment to pursue. For instance, a patient with PPA shouldn’t be given a pill for Alzheimer’s. The Amyloid PET will be able to help determine which type of dementia the doctor is treating within the patient.
Giving a patient with PPA Alzheimer’s medication is completely ineffective. Although they may show signs of Alzheimer’s, they will not react to the drugs used to treat the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the reason new technology like the Amyloid PET is so important. It gives doctors a chance to diagnose PPA before it is too late.
Scientists are excited about the new findings. The most recent study using the new technology was the first of its kind and was the first time scientists were able to take a closer look at the protein buildup in the brain. “This new technology is very exciting for Alzheimer’s research,” said Adam Martersteck, the first author on the study. It will be able to tell doctors whether or not the person has PPA, where the buildup of proteins is occurring in the brain and also determine what kind of treatment to pursue. Doctors will also be able to diagnose the disease earlier on using the new technology.
Photo: Flickr: Ann