Untangling Alzheimer's Disease

November 26, 2018

Initially, scientists thought Alzheimer’s was a simple, straightforward problem to solve.

“We hoped that there would be one big mutation [that caused the disease] and everything would be fixed,” says Richard Mayeux, MD, the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Epidemiology and chair of neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“But it’s not.”

Years of disappointing clinical trials have seen one drug after another fail to slow the disease.

“I think we’ve tried a lot of the obvious stuff and now we have to draw from many disparate fields to create a solution totally different from what we’ve tried before,” says Anthony Fitzpatrick, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry & molecular biophysics and principal investigator at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

Columbia scientists are now becoming cautiously optimistic that a solution is within reach.

“The analogy used is the baseball playing field,” says Scott Small, MD, the Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology and director of Columbia’s Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. 

“For a number of years, we were either in the wrong playing field or the lights were off.”

“What’s clearly happened is that we’re now swinging in the right playing field. When will that home run–an effective intervention–be hit? Will it be one year, two years, three, five, 10? It’s hard to know, but I know it will be hit.” [read more] [watch video]

This article was adapted from How Columbia University is Untangling Alzheimer's, first published on the Zuckerman Institute website.