(Esther Landhuis/ Knowable Magazine) — For nearly 30 years, the hunt for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease has focused on a protein called beta-amyloid. Amyloid, the hypothesis goes, builds up inside the brain to bring about this memory-robbing disorder, which afflicts some 47 million people worldwide.
Billions of dollars have poured into developing therapies aimed at reducing amyloid — thus far, to no avail. Trials of anti-amyloid treatments have repeatedly failed to help patients, sparking a reckoning among the field’s leaders.
All along, some researchers have toiled in the relative shadows, developing potential strategies that target other aspects of cells that go awry in Alzheimer’s: molecular pathways that regulate energy production, or clean up cellular debris, or regulate the flow of calcium, an ion critical to nerve cell function. And increasingly, some of these scientists have focused on what they suspect may be another, more central factor in Alzheimer’s and other dementias: dysfunction of the immune system. (…)