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Despite Uneven Results, Alzheimer's Research Suggests a Path for Treatment

By Jon Hamilton 12/26/12

It's been a mixed year for Alzheimer's research. Some promising drugs failed to stop or even slow the disease. But researchers also found reasons to think that treatments can work if they just start sooner.

Scientists who study Alzheimer's say they aren't discouraged by the drug failures. "I actually think it was a phenomenal year for research," says Bill Rebeck, a brain scientist at Georgetown University.

Rebeck is optimistic because during the year, several very different lines of research all began to suggest a new way of thinking about Alzheimer's — that it has to be stopped before it damages the brain.

"Once you start to lose a lot of synapses, once you start to lose a lot of neurons, your brain can't recover from that," Rebeck says. "And so when we start with people who have symptoms of the disease, treating them turns out to be unsuccessful."

 

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