There is recent research on Alzheimer’s disease that you may wish to share with your clients. Scientists have isolated a new variation of dementia that mimics Alzheimer’s disease. They call it LATE, because it doesn’t manifest itself until people are in their 80’s. Yet it is far more widespread than they expected. In fact, they estimate that up to one-quarter of dementia cases at age 85 are LATE dementia, not Alzheimer’s per se.
The similarities in the two result from the fact that both types of dementia target the hippocampus first. That is the area of the brain that sends short-term experience into long-term memory. With both Alzheimer’s and LATE, that stops happening. That is why someone with Alzheimer’s or LATE may remember something from 40 years ago better than they remember what they had for lunch.
Despite those similarities, however, the underlying features are different. Alzheimer’s is characterized by two proteins – beta amyloid (which builds up in sticky plaques on the neurons) and tau (which becomes tangled strands within the nerve cells). LATE is characterized by a different protein – TDP-43 – that also kills brain cells, but by a different mechanism.
Why does this matter? First, we have a set of drugs that are proven to temporarily slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms, but they may do nothing at all for LATE. Secondly, most of the drugs researched and tested on patients in the past decade target beta amyloid, and all of them have failed to improve cognition even if they successfully decrease that protein. Now that a different protein has been identified, researchers have another target on which to focus. Perhaps cases of LATE dementia can be more successfully treated or even cured. In the process, we may learn more about dementia in general that can aid in treatments for other forms, especially the very similar Alzheimer’s disease.
This is all preliminary. Yet if you alert your clients that you are aware of the latest research, you distinguish yourself as an advisor who is on top of the game and has the clients’ best interests in mind in every way, not just financially. Our hope is that someday, dementia will become a treatable chronic condition like present-day hypertension or diabetes. In the meantime, let your clients know you serve them exceptionally well!