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 Scientists Name New Dementia Disease for 85-Plus Population

LATE is the name researchers have decided to call an Alzheimer’s-like disease that has perplexed scientists and clinicians for being distinct from Alzheimer’s but similar enough to cause confusion as to its origins and clinical characteristics.

The name LATE is apt since the disease has appeared in autopsies of those 85-years-old and older and stands for “limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy,” according to a study released recently in Brain: A Journal of Neurology.  

“This proteinopathy has been associated with substantial cognitive impairment that mimicked Alzheimer’s disease clinical syndrome in retrospective studies. Despite evidence from many sources attesting to the public health impact of age-related TDP-43 proteinopathy, there is as yet no consensus-based nomenclature. To address this problem, we propose new terminology: LATE,” the study said.

Researchers from across the globe decided on the new name for a disease that could affect as many as one-quarter of those 85 and older.

LATE resembles Alzheimer’s in that those with the disease have memory problems and dementia. The difference in diagnosis is the presence of the protein TDP-43 in those with LATE, the study said. Researchers hope that by publicizing the new name and other facts accumulated on LATE that clinicians will be able to recognize the disease more easily. Currently, the spread of TDP-43 and the damage it does can only be discovered in individuals after they are deceased.

Researchers said the advent of LATE is part of a broader recognition in the scientific community that Alzheimer’s is only one of multiple categories for causing cognitive impairment in the aged population.

“Recent studies have gathered rich clinical data from large groups of subjects across a spectrum of cognitive states, correlated these clinical findings with new pathological markers at autopsy, and then analyzed the data using powerful statistical methods. These studies have indicated that the diseases of aged human brains are complex,” the study said.

A key characteristic of LATE is the fact it appears in the later stage of late life, with the presence of TDP-43 indicating “a novel disease mechanism in older adults.” The fact there was no name for the disease until now left the condition without necessary study among investigators in the field of dementia research.

“The promotion of research and increasing awareness of this disease are the primary motivations for developing the new term LATE, and for the recommendations that follow,” researchers said.

Report authors said the next steps in developing more information on LATE will expand assessment tools, since the only methods now focus on the age of people and the year in which they were studied. “Researchers were unaware of TDP-43 proteinopathy prior to 2006, so studies prior to this time could not assess the specific impact of LATE,” the study said.

Scientists will also focus on how many different possible Alzheimer’s-like diseases are present in any one individual.

Read the study at https://academic.oup.com/brain.

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