Beyond Alzheimer's: Research explores hippocampal sclerosis

Feb 09, 2011

The population of aged persons worldwide is expanding rapidly, and it is becoming increasingly clear that there are many different diseases that affect the minds of these individuals. Researchers at the University of Kentucky are breaking new ground in the ongoing project of identifying and defining those diseases most likely to affect an aged population. Dr. Peter Nelson of the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging is the lead author on a paper soon to be published in the journal BRAIN; the paper deals with the little-understood but serious condition hippocampal sclerosis (HS-AGING). He is also the recipient of a newly approved grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a study of HS-AGING genetics.

Many different diseases may produce symptoms of - defined as cognitive decline and impaired memory - in aged persons. Although Alzheimer's disease is probably the most recognized cause of dementia, HS-AGING also causes serious in . In those who live to a very advanced age (beyond the age of 95) HS-AGING is roughly as prevalent as Alzheimer's.

It is important for physicians and scientists to understand the unique pathology of HS-AGING, and to be able to differentiate it from other diseases, as it is only by making an accurate diagnosis that clinicians can hope to treat people who present with signs of cognitive decline.

Nelson, a neuropathologist, analyzed data from 1,100 individuals, each with substantial clinical data available from before death. The long-term clinical information was obtained through the University of Kentucky Alzheimer's Disease Center, the Nun Study and the Georgia Centenarian Study (all autopsies were performed at the University of Kentucky). The large numbers of patients and the high quality of the data enabled the research team to gather new clues about the prevalence and impact of HS-AGING.

"We and others have shown previously that HS-AGING has a strong impact on cognition. The goal of the new study was to define HS-AGING as a distinct disease entity," said Nelson.

"There were some surprises. The high prevalence of HS-AGING in individuals older than 95 was unexpected. In addition, by analyzing neuropathological data alongside clinical data, we were able to determine that there is a recognizable cognitive profile for individuals likely to develop HS-AGING," said Nelson.

In the future, clinicians may be able to utilize cognitive tests with increased accuracy to differentiate a diagnosis of HS-AGING from a general diagnosis of cognitive decline. Being able to pinpoint the cause of may lead to better and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of aging individuals who present with signs of dementia.

"This is an extremely exciting paper because it provides the largest study of HS-AGING in the literature to date, by far. These studies help to define the cognitive features, pathological features, and risk factors that correlate with HS-AGING," said Linda Van Eldik, director of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and co-author of the paper.

The next step for Nelson will be to use a grant from the NIH (through the Alzheimer's Disease Genetic Consortium) to study HS-AGING from a genomic approach.

"We want to show the specific genetic fingerprint of HS-AGING so that we can begin to develop ways of better diagnosing and curing the disease during life", said Nelson.

"Our ultimate goal is to prevent or cure the disease, and a greater understanding of the disorder at the genetic and biological levels is critical. Dr. Nelson's studies are providing the essential foundation required for translating the science into new therapies for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and well beyond," summarized Van Eldik.

Explore further: Climate change could see dengue fever come to Europe

Provided by University of Kentucky

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study examines the effect of epilepsy on the aging

Apr 16, 2008

An article published in the May 2008 issue of Epilepsia calls attention to the lack of knowledge regarding cognitive aging in chronic epilepsy patients. For persons with chronic epilepsy, little is known about the impact ...

Mild memory loss is not a part of normal aging

Sep 15, 2010

Simply getting older is not the cause of mild memory lapses often called senior moments, according to a new study by researchers at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. The study, published in the September 15, 2010, online ...

Recommended for you

Nigeria confirms two new Ebola cases

7 hours ago

Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, in an alarming development, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi ...

Senegal closes border as UN warns on Ebola flare-up

12 hours ago

Senegal has become the latest country to seal its border with a west African neighbour to ward off the deadly Ebola virus, as the new UN pointman on the epidemic said preparations must be made for a possible flare-up of the ...

Climate change could see dengue fever come to Europe

12 hours ago

Dengue fever could make headway in popular European holiday destinations if climate change continues on its predicted trajectory, according to research published in open access journal BMC Public Health.

American Ebola doc: 'I am thrilled to be alive'

20 hours ago

Calling it a "miraculous day," an American doctor infected with Ebola left his isolation unit and warmly hugged his doctors and nurses on Thursday, showing the world that he poses no public health threat ...

User comments : 0