Dementia is challenging for families, patients and physicians, alike. Image Source: Flickr User: Ferlinka Borzoi (Deb West)
Dementia is a symptom of a number of confusing and challenging degenerative illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In order to more effectively treat dementia, it must be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. A recent publication talks about better diagnosing and understanding the early stages of dementia, which may lead to better leads for treatments and cures.1 Modern computer software that can analyze the data collected during these trials, and carry it through to the discovery of therapeutics, will be crucial to developing successful treatments for dementia.
Dementia, though often regarded as a disease of it’s own, is actually the symptom of one of a number of different types of dementia. These varieties of dementia have a wide range of causes, but due to their shared symptoms they have a number of mechanistic similarities. A few different types of dementia are:2
Common amongst all these disease is cognitive impairment, particularly with memory. Unfortunately, it often isn’t diagnosed until later stages, at which point it cannot be treated as effectively. Researchers have been mining through their data with modern lab software looking for indicators of onset, both on a macro and micro level. Everyone has occasionally memory lapses, and it is often difficult to diagnose based on this factor alone. With a strong molecular start point, researchers can use innovative lab software to better design primary testing as well as more effective first-line therapeutics.
Zooming in on the Synapse
The synapse, the junction between two nerve cells that is responsible for signal transmission, is an important part of nervous function throughout the body. Functionally, this is how different parts of your body talk to one another and how the brain transmits and receives information throughout itself and throughout the entire body. Synapse loss is a key feature of dementia, but its role within dementia is poorly understood. Does it precede degenerative phases, or is a result of degeneration? Can recent advancements in lab software bring this research a step further?
In a healthy brain, synapses are added and lost as the brain creates new memories and learns new skills. In dementia, this isn’t the case; even before researchers observed the classical decrease in synapse population, there is an abnormal stability pattern. There is an abnormal turnover in cortical axonal boutons and dendritic spines in rodent models of dementia. There is vast difference between pre- and post-synaptic stability, which is undoubtedly interfering with neuronal activity. These two components work as partners, and if one isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, their combined effort will fall short.
A large collaborative study merging both academic and pharmaceutical labs looked into the behaviour of synapses to assess how the destruction manifests itself.3 Research across numerous institutions was easily organized with the aid of modern lab software. By housing all information on a single, comprehensive platform, researchers moved more quickly from discovery to deliverable results. In studies like this longitudinal one, there is a lot of data to mine, and well-analyzed data appears to be the next step in early diagnosis and treatment.
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- “Therapies that target dementia in early stages critical to success,” March 28, 2017, http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2017/march/target-dementia.html ↩
- ”Dementia Guide” June 17, 2015, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/dementia-guide/Pages/causes-of-dementia.aspx ↩
- “Altered Synapse Stability in the Early Stages of Tauopathy,” March 28, 2017, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211124717303303 ↩