Currently over 5.3 million of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and sadly, for now, there is no cure.

Yet, one Israeli-American team is one step closer to helping to find effective treatments thanks to an innovative study that has reshaped how Alzheimer’s is defined and ultimately treated.
Prior research has linked Alzheimer’s to abnormal folding and aggregation of brain proteins due to aging or genetics, suggesting a common mechanism that causes Alzheimer’s disease.

In the new study, co-authored by leading scientists from Israeli universities and the US National Institutes of Health, the international team pointed out while the process is similar for all Alzheimer’s patients, the mechanisms are not exactly the same.

“This study provides important new insights: first, it shows that the development of distinct neurodegenerative disorders stems from a similar mechanism,” the lead scientist, Professor Ehud Cohen of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, who was aided by postdoctoral fellow Tziona Ben-Gedalya said. “More importantly, it indicates that Alzheimer’s disease can emanate from more than one mechanism, suggesting that it is actually a collection of diseases that should be classified.”

Cohen added that the knowledge that Alzheimer’s is actually a cluster of diseases is important to develop better research studies and ultimately treatments.

“It is essential to carefully characterize and classify the mechanisms that underlie Alzheimer’s disease in order to allow for the development of novel therapies that can be prescribed to the individual patient according to their relevant disease subtype,” Cohen said.

While the study is just the first step in better understanding the disease cluster, Cohen and his team’s research could not come at a better time.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the next ten years, the number of people in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase by 40 percent as people continue to live longer making better treatments essential for improving the quality of life for millions in the US alone.