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As new Alzheimer’s drugs keep failing scientists shift focus

Do new drugs for Alzheimer's work? Getting rid of amyloid plaques has failed to help patients with dementia so scientists are looking for new treatment targets.

As yet another Alzheimer's drug targeting plaque buildup in the brain fails to improve cognition in patients, leading scientists said a significant shift is underway in the search for effective treatments for the disease.

The new direction in Alzheimer’s research — away from focusing solely on beta-amyloid plaques to other potential causes, including brain inflammation and conditions related to diabetes — comes from growing evidence that multiple factors contribute to the development of the disease.

“It doesn’t seem that there’s one single superstar mechanism that is the magic solution," said Dr. Vijay Ramanan, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Amyloid plaques, clumps of protein in the brain long considered a hallmark of Alzheimer's, are still seen as a key player in how the disease develops, but the turn from amyloid as a sole cause is a focal point of this week’s 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego, where top scientists are releasing the latest discoveries in the field, including potential new treatments for the disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans.

By 2050, that number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million, according to an estimate from the Alzheimer’s Association.

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