Mayo Clinic doctors leading the way in researching new disease that mimics Alzheimer's

Brain disease mimicking Alzheimer's identified at Jacksonville Mayo Clinic

A breakthrough in studying memory loss for our older population has happened right in our backyard at Mayo Clinic.

Researchers there have helped identify a brain disease that mimics Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Dennis Dickson is one of the lead researchers, he’s been studying this newly named disease for 20 years.

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“The area that is affected in LATE is this here kind of a seahorse shaped,” said Dickson. “Small area critical for learning and memory.”

It’s called “limbic-predominant age related TDP 43 encephalopathy,” or LATE for short.

“It wasn’t until 2006 that the protein TDP 43 was discovered and at that point we thought ‘ah ha’ maybe that’s what’s wrong with these cases,” said Dickson.

But it wasn’t until now that the condition got a name.

It comes after decades of research by Dickson and others around the world, after realizing that what some patients had wasn’t Alzheimer’s after all.

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“Some people definitely have been misdiagnosed, especially older individuals that would be called Alzheimer’s,” said Dickson.

The research to get to this point wouldn’t have been possible without the donated brain tissue from patients.

The goal is to be able to diagnose people when they’re still alive.

Molecular neuroscientist Dr. Melissa Murray showed Action News Jax the lab where some of the research is being done at Mayo Clinic.

The characteristic feature of LATE is memory problems, unlike Alzheimer’s that affects more areas of the brain, but it can get tricky.

“You can actually have LATE on top of Alzheimer’s, you can have LATE independent of Alzheimer’s disease but both targeting the memory center,” said Murray.

Right now, scientists are studying what causes LATE but what clear is that it mostly impacts those in their 80s or older.

The discoveries could potentially impact treatment in the future.