Nobel Prize Discovery has Applications for Alzheimer's and Dementia

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The Nobel-Prize-winning discovery of cells in the brain that act as the body’s internal global positioning system can increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

These spatial cells are some of the first to be affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, which explains why patients often lose their way. Understanding how these cells become degraded could reveal important information about the disease process, according to British-American researcher John O’Keefe, who won this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine along with Norwegians May-Britt and Edvard Moser. O’Keefe plans to continue his research as director of a new brain institute in London.

O’Keefe says they hope to follow the progression of Alzheimer’s over time by using more high-tech studies. He hopes they will find where and when the disease begins in order to find ways to attack it at both a cellular and molecular level.

The first of more than 150 scientists will begin the research at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior at University College London next year. The researchers will use recently-developed tools for studying brain circuits, including state-of-the-art lasers, molecular biology, and computational modeling.

While this research will not bear immediate breakthroughs, it will be imperative for understanding how Alzheimer’s develops.

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Nobel Prize Discovery has Applications for Alzheimer's and Dementia
The discovery of cells in the brain that act as the body's internal global positioning system, which won three scientists the Nobel Prize for medicine on Monday, opens an intriguing new window onto dementia.
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