New study could lead to Alzheimer's breakthrough

Uncovering an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease has long been a goal of many researchers, and a team of scientists from the University of San Francisco recently began work on a study they believe could have a substantial impact on healthy aging. The school's Gladstone Institutes were recently awarded a 2.5 million grant to begin investigating what role a protein known as apoE4​ could play in the process.

The main focus of the study will be on whether researchers can change the composition of apoE4, which is associated with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's, so that it is indistinguishable from apoE3, which has no such relationship. This would be a big difference from previous studies because it takes an entirely new approach to the protein.

"We're not masking apoE4. We're changing the structure," Robert Mahley, the institute's founder, told the San Francisco Business Times. "That's a new concept."

While it will be years before the study is completed, its launch comes at a time when Alzheimer's and dementia are at the forefront of healthy senior living. Earlier this month, a policy brief created by Alzheimer's Disease International ahead of the G8 Dementia Summit in London laid out predictions for the future of the condition. Experts speculate that approximately 76 million people will be living with dementia by 2030, and that figure could swell to 135 million by 2050. The report also said the onus is on governments to devise memory care strategies. 

"At the eve of the G8 Dementia Summit it is not just the G8 countries, but all nations, that must commit to a sustained increase in dementia research," said Marc Wortmann​, ADI executive director, in a news release.