Researchers at the University of California San Diego found that efforts previously used to treat Alzheimer’s disease have shown a low success rate.

  • This new finding could guide researchers in the right direction in the quest to treat Alzheimer’s.

Let’s review: Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that is identified by the decline of cognitive abilities. When a person has Alzheimer’s, the healthy neurons in their brain cease to function and connect with other neurons. This leads to significant memory loss, according to the National Institute on Aging.

What’s new: Previously, Alzheimer’s was thought to be caused by a buildup of amyloid plaques, which was attributed to causing neuron death. Scientists have recently found that this isn’t the case.

  • “This approach has not lead to a cure or improved dementia in patients,” said Shankar Subramaniam, the senior author of the study by the Alzheimer’s Association.

The new study shows that there are other factors that attribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s:

  • Degradation of neurons: The loss of function in nerve axons. This limits the brain’s ability to transmit messages, according to the Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience.
  • Neuron gene suppression: The suppression of neurons leading to loss of synaptic connection, reported by the National Institute on Aging.
  • Synaptic connection loss: Synapses are vital to the way the brain supplements everyday function. A loss of connection between synapses leads to mental decline, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Where do researchers go from here?: Now that researchers know which specific endotypes — disease mechanisms — to target, a new window of opportunity is opened for the treatment of Alzheimer's.

With these findings, a new drug screening test was developed by the researchers.

  • This test will be used to target certain drugs and determine their effectiveness.
  • This method views brain tissues from a broader lens, targeting specific endotypes and targeting the specific problem area in the brain.

The bottom line: These findings could lead to “groundbreaking treatments and improved patient outcomes,” according to the National Science Foundation.