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Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and statistics suggest that an individual has a 50% chance of developing the disease after age 85. Approximately 150 drug trials for Alzheimer’s have failed, but the efforts continue nonetheless. Erik Gunther, Ph.D., is an associate research scientist at the Strittmatter Lab at Yale University School of Medicine, and he is working on the development of a new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s—one that operates under the compelling hypothesis that the buildup of beta-amyloid proteins or “plaque” in the brain is what causes Alzheimer’s. Rather than follow the lead of what’s already failed—which are drugs that remove plaque once it’s already accumulated in the brain—they ’re working on a drug that will prevent the buildup of plaque in the first place. It’s a novel approach to a long-standing problem, and it could change everything for current and future generations.

In addition to explaining exactly how the drug interacts with neurons in the brain and what they’ve discovered from trials with laboratory mice, Dr. Gunther discusses a range of other topics, including the genetic contribution of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and how it bolsters the beta-amyloid hypothesis, what occurs during the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and how it ultimately causes death, how an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is reached (and the problem of misdiagnosis), insulin resistance of the brain and the possible connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and how the brain’s immune system works.

Press play to hear all the details of these topics and more, and visit https://medicine.yale.edu/lab/strittmatter/ to stay current on the latest research.

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