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Medicine Science

Alzheimer's Transmission Pathway Discovered 154

smitty777 writes "Two separate studies by the Taub Institute and Harvard have discovered the pathway used by Alzheimer's Disease to spread through the brain. The studies indicate it's not a virus, but a distorted protein called Tau which moves from cell to cell. Further, the discovery 'may now offer scientists a way to move forward and develop a way to block tau's spread in Alzheimer's patients, said Karen Duff, a researcher at Columbia's Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's disease and co-author of one study published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One. "It's enlightening for us because it now provides a whole other area for potential therapeutic impact," said Duff. "It's possible that you can identify the disease and intervene (with potential tau-blocking drugs) before the dementia actually sets in."'"
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Alzheimer's Transmission Pathway Discovered

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @11:58AM (#38915667) Journal
    Does this suggest that it may be hazardous to produce soylent green from Alzheimer's casualties, in the same way that consumption of tissue from animals affected by prion disorders is considered unwise?
  • Awesome (Score:5, Informative)

    by chinton ( 151403 ) <chinton001-slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 03, 2012 @11:58AM (#38915683) Journal
    After watching my dad ravaged body (by bone cancer) and mind (by Alzheimer's), anything that may some day lead to prevention is great news.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by quark101 ( 865412 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:07PM (#38915807)
      Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, not just for the person who has it, but especially so for those who are close to the afflicted. The slow, degenerative, wasting of the mind is horrifying to watch, as the person that was once bright and lively gets turned into a shell of their former self. Not able to grasp what's going on around them, or who they're talking to, the person can easily become terrified, lost, and confused, made all the more painful by the fact that they don't know who their children are or why they're here.

      I know that identifying the underlying cause and developing a treatment are often worlds apart, but I'm glad nonetheless to see this advancement, if merely for the fact that one day others won't have to experience the pain I did as I watched people I love succumb to Alzheimer's.
      • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:09PM (#38916779) Homepage

        quark101 opined:

        Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, not just for the person who has it, but especially so for those who are close to the afflicted. The slow, degenerative, wasting of the mind is horrifying to watch, as the person that was once bright and lively gets turned into a shell of their former self. Not able to grasp what's going on around them, or who they're talking to, the person can easily become terrified, lost, and confused, made all the more painful by the fact that they don't know who their children are or why they're here.

        I know that identifying the underlying cause and developing a treatment are often worlds apart, but I'm glad nonetheless to see this advancement, if merely for the fact that one day others won't have to experience the pain I did as I watched people I love succumb to Alzheimer's.

        Amen to that.

        Last August, my mother was diagnosed with "mild to moderate" Alzheimer's. I had been certain for some time prior to then that she had the disease. She would sometimes repeat as if it had just occurred to her a story she'd told me just minutes earlier, she'd get stuck trying to recall the names of people she'd known for years (such as her 22-year-old granddaughter), and was only strongly confident about the details of events long past. In November, she was examined by two doctors at the Copper Ridge Institute (which is affiliated with Johns Hopkins), which specializes in Alzheimer's research and treatment. She knew the President of the U.S. was black, but couldn't recall his name, thought my youngest sister was 40 (she turned 53 in December), and couldn't remember which day of the week it was (it was Friday).

        I call her at least once a week, and she seems to deteriorate more every time I speak with her - and yet, she's still fundamentally the same warm, sweet, vibrant woman she's been as long as I've known her. Just ... a little confused. What I fear is that, over time, she will lose all the memories that make her that person. I've known several people with advanced Alzheimer's, and watched them become progressively emptier shells of themselves, until they're little more than slack-jawed zombies, incapable of caring for themselves, or communicating with others - and I don't want to see that happen to my Mom.

        But I know it will, because none of these new discoveries will make it out of the lab in time to save her from the ravages of this loathsome disease. And that breaks my heart.

        • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:54PM (#38917599)

          Same thing happened to my gran.

          It's like being forced to watch an extremely bad car crash in slow motion - so slow it takes place over the course of years rather than seconds. You know what's happening from quite early on in the process, you've got a pretty good idea of how it's going to pan out in the end, you can tell from the pace at which things progress that the end may be some time away and you're powerless to stop it.

          • by cyberchondriac ( 456626 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:48PM (#38918677) Journal
            Exactly. My mom just died last November, after languishing in a nursing home for 10 freakin' years with it. It's surprising she lasted that long, because she was pretty bad off when my dad put her in. (He died 5 years later.)
            In those last years, she was pretty much a zombie, or a human shell, hadn't made a coherent sentence in years, and finally stopped even trying to speak a single word.. she seemed to sleep a lot, but I don't know everything that happened when I wasn't visiting. She so didn't deserve that tortuous end, not that anyone does. I would hope I'd die long before it got that bad.
            If you don't have your own mind, what do you have? Is there really even a "you" anymore? I imagine few things are worse than getting slowly erased over a number of years.
      • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:13PM (#38916865) Journal

        It is a truly evil disease. I think my mom was going down that path so when she died almost instantly from a massive stroke I saw it as a bit of a blessing for everyone. Beats watching her soul slowly get scooped out of her (and probably hellish for them too).

      • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:15PM (#38916893) Homepage Journal

        Yep. When my grandmother died, after a long bout with Alzheimer's, my reaction was, "That's not her. That's a thing that *used to be* her."

    • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:12PM (#38915869) Homepage
      I don't have anything insightful to add, but I feel compelled to say fuck you, cancer and double fuck you, Alzheimer's. Thank you for your attention.
      • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:32PM (#38916167)

        I don't have anything insightful to add, but I feel compelled to say fuck you, cancer and double fuck you, Alzheimer's. Thank you for your attention.

        Heh...yeah. Every single person in my family for the past 3 generations, with only two exceptions, both maternal and paternal has died in their early 70's or before from cancer. The exceptions: one of my cousins committed suicide, and one of my grandfathers survived into his 80's only to succumb to Alzheimer's. I got to watch a truly brilliant man, who I've always considered far more intelligent than I, become unable to understand the most simple concepts, followed by slowly becoming more and more unresponsive. Eventually, he wouldn't react at all to anybody visiting him, he would just sit there in his chair, or lie in a bed, or wherever it was that anyone led him to be. I can't think of a worst way to go.

        My parents are still alive, but my father has already been diagnosed with prostate cancer (he's in his early 60's), and my mother pretty much refuses to go to the doctor for anything, because she figures it's only a matter of time before they find something, and she'd rather not know about it since she has already decided she would refuse to go through chemo anyway.

        In other words, my genes suck, and as a result I feel strongly compelled to join you. Fuck Cancer and Fuck Alzheimer's..

        • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:48PM (#38916443) Homepage

          I don't mean to pry, but why on Earth would your mother refuse chemo? These days most cancers (not all, by any means, but most) are extremely treatable and survivable if caught early. It's unpleasant for a few months, but with a few exception you'll mostly always survive and be fine. It's not like it was 30 years ago where you were looking at 50-50 odds at best and the treatment was worse than the disease. I personally know literally half a dozen cancer survivors just among my family and people that I am close enough to to know their medical history. Most are as fit and active as ever now.

          • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:03PM (#38917793)

            It's not as simple as that.

            It's much easier to successfully treat cancer in its early stages. Which is great if you're "lucky" enough to be struck down with a type that tends to be easily detectable at early stages. Testicular and breast cancer fall into this category - it's pretty damn obvious if you've got a lump on one of your testicles.

            Cancers that start deep inside the body - things like lung, liver, pancreas cancer - often don't show much in the way of symptoms until you're at a pretty advanced stage. By which time you'd be well advised to get your affairs in order.

            Source: No particular expertise, but my wife works in radiotherapy and treats people with cancer all day long.

            • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @03:50PM (#38919581) Homepage

              You're right about the stages, also the type of cancer. I know at the local relay for life events I'll hear 'Oh my cancer's been in remission for years' and then the next person will tell you how a family member was gone in months. I also hear a lot of stories at the chemo ward. My mother's been fighting ovarian for over 3 years, but it had recently spread to her liver. Actually her doctors told her in December to get her affairs in order as there was nothing they could do, probably last 2-3 months. Also she was on 175 mg morphine for pain management so no quality of life to speak of. Luckily Cleveland Clinic decided she was a good candidate for surgery and she's just about back on her feet. Almost entirely pain free. No hard prognosis with cancer, but her quality of life is better and the family has time.

              What I learned? Regional hospitals may be alright but on anything important screw them, get in one of the top 10 hospitals as there really is a world of difference.

              As an aside World Cancer Day is Feb 4th [standup2cancer.org]

        • by Prune ( 557140 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:26PM (#38917073)

          Good luck, anon.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:21PM (#38916991) Journal
      McDonald's supersize meals can work as a preventative measure. Take one daily and you are unlikely to die of cancer or get Alzheimers. ;)

      p.s. you might die a bit earlier though.
    • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @10:21AM (#38926533) Homepage

      http://www.changemakers.com/discussions/discussion-493#comment-38823 [changemakers.com]

      Look into vitamin D, eating more vegetables, getting enough iodine, periodic fasting, omega 3s, and so on.

      Regular exercise to keep lymph circulating and mind-body coordination (Yoga, Tai Chi) can help, too.

      And social and psychological aspects make a difference too (especially in supporting good nutrition, adequate exercise, time for learning, and limiting bad stress).

      The seeds of cancer are usually set decades before the problem emerges. The body is always getting cancerous cells; the issue is does the immune system fight it off. And the more reserve capacity a brain has, the longer mental decay takes to become significant and life-altering.

      Sorry to hear about your father, but maybe these can help you avoid the same fate.

      See also, not that it applies directly, but might be suggestive:
      http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/new-study-finds-that-vitamin-d-may-help-in-treatment-of-pediatric-bone-cancer/ [vitamindcouncil.org]
      "Vitamin D can cause cancerous bone cells to turn into normal bone cells, according to research by scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). The discovery may lead to new treatments for pediatric bone cancer, the scientists say. Recent studies have shown that vitamin D may be helpful in treating cancer of the breast, prostate and colon by inhibiting the growth of malignant cells. KUMC scientists built on that foundation, using tests to show that vitamin D produces a similar response in osteosarcoma -- a type of malignant bone tumor that mainly affects children and adolescents."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:00PM (#38915697)

    I, for one, welcome our.. I, for one, welcome..

  • Tau (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:03PM (#38915751)

    Xenoflesh in the human brain? Clearly the apothecaries have failed in purging this scum from our fellow men. The only solution is Exterminatus. The Emperor Protects!

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:05PM (#38915771) Homepage Journal

    I'm certain Sir Pterry [terrypratchett.co.uk] is following this with considerable interest.

    • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:07PM (#38915801) Journal
      That was my first thought too. Knowing what little I do of him, he'd probably be the first in line to volunteer for human experimental studies of this.
      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:05PM (#38917837) Homepage Journal

        That was my first thought too. Knowing what little I do of him, he'd probably be the first in line to volunteer for human experimental studies of this.

        And not out of selfishness, but to benefit others with his experience.

        I have attended a few of his readings, over the past 6 years and he had first explained he thought he'd suffered some kind of minor stroke, the following year he came through town with another reading and shed more light on his experience. Finally there was the "embuggerance" note posted publicly after the diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer's. He has tried many treatments and has been advocating Right To Die.

        You can see how he has grown tremedously from his experience and is now a great champion of research and rights.

        Well done him. I hope they can develop something to halt the progress of this insidious malady.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:06PM (#38915789)
    It was done at a University by students who probably weren't paid. It wasn't done by a pharmaceutical lab. Remember that when the drug companies try to justify charging your parents $2000 for a one month supply of Alzheimer medication.

    They spend more on advertising then R&D.
    • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:21PM (#38916039)

      While I agree that the pharmaceutical businesses is a complete disaster area in terms of cures-per-dollar, you can't point at one publicly funded study and use it as evidence of that fact. It's spectacularly irrational.

    • A) This is a discovery, not a development of a treatment; these are different things.
      B) So what? there marketing spends money; that i no way makes drug research cheap.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:44PM (#38916359)
      We shouldn't trust pharmaceuticals, that's for sure. Between the questionably ethical testing in 3rd world countries, the highway robbery, the lobbying to the medical industry to push fairly worthless products, and, oh yeah, their old-fashioned bribery (I mean lobbying) of elected officials to keep their racket going, they are evil. I got laid off from Pfizer two days after Christmas years ago, so I'm not on their side.

      Still, I have to point out that basic biological research is a different beast from true medical research. Clinical trials in people are generally very expensive compared to basic research. They take much longer too. Mass producing drugs is not cheap to begin with, and the standards have to be very high for pharmecuticals. 70% purity of a drug you're going to inject into rats to test the effect for basic research like this is acceptable often, but that's hideously impure for something you're going to be putting into people.

      The biggest disadvantage pharmecuticals have is liability. No one sues you if one of your lab rats or plates of cells die, this is not the case if someone taking your medicine dies. You need to hire an army of lawyers.

      They do have huge costs, and the risks are much higher. Again, they should be scrutinized, but I don't think it's fair to imply that just because a university lab has a result on Alzheimers means that drugs should be cheap.
    • by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:58PM (#38916593) Homepage

      They spend more on advertising then [sic] R&D.

      I hate this statement as a statement against the pharmaceutical industry.

      Marketing 101 is all about Return on Investment. Marketing is an investment from which you expect a return greater than the investment. Very few large companies spend more on marketing than they get back out of it. This is just as true for pharmaceuticals as it is any other industry. That is the POINT of marketing expenditure. Maybe some companies have marketing departments which suck at their job. But that's not a problem with marketing in general, it's a problem with those particular companies.

      So all that this statement says about anything is that our society pays too much attention to advertisements. A company that sends all their money into R&D at the expense of marketing will probably produce some pretty useful drugs that no doctors or patients ever hear about and so aren't used, so they don't sell as much, so they don't have as much money to invest into R&D.

      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:19PM (#38916953) Homepage

        No, the problem is that the drug companies have NOT been producing 'useful' drugs. They have mostly (of course, there are a few exceptions) been producing 'me too' drugs. Yet another acid blocker for your tummy ache, yet another ACE inhibitor for your blood pressure, yet another minimally modified anti depressant for everything else.

        So when you don't have biology to tout, you bang on the advertising table. Put up pretty graphs about how much better your drug is than the existing drug and hope nobody notices that the scale is set to show a miniscule, clinically irrelevant difference. Put up shiny TV advertisements to a general public that will go for any drug / supplement / vitamin / device / religion that will make your life (or sexual experience) better / stronger / faster / closer to nirvana.

        They're desperate. I'm sure they'd love to have a couple of 'blockbuster' drugs in the pipe, but it turns out to be damned hard to do.

      • by Defenestrar ( 1773808 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:44PM (#38918603)

        Not to mention that marketing (in pharma) drives up profitability but drops long term value [nature.com]. Actually, that link is probably a must read for anyone who makes claims based on the marketing is double R&D claim [plosmedicine.org]. (Actually, reading that link will likely tone down the quote based off of a snippet summary of a news article about this paper).

        Nahdude812 makes some excellent points about marketing. Marketing pays for itself, and then it pays for other things (such as more R&D). If marketing is a net negative the company is being run so poorly that it won't be around long enough to make the third batch after approval.

    • Not that I'm a big fan of the way the Pharmaceutical Industry works these days, but its a lot less black and white than you suggest. Drug companies pay fellowships for students going to grad schools, sponsor labs and give grants to Chemical Engineering departments who publish work like this, and do their best to ensure a continued flow of talent and research. There is Federal grant money in there as well. Once the research is done, Chemical Engineers at the drug companies work on how to reproduce and mass produce compounds that are likely to have a positive effect based on this type of research. On top of the actual cost of research to bring these medicines to market there are administrative costs, facility overhead and regulatory overhead.

      Many Pharmaceutical companies do come out with near clones of previous medicines and then get patents on them, and then market the crud out of those new medicines to get people to insist on them. The (sarcasm intended) glorious health insurance companies (end sarcasm) try to ensure that big Pharma doesn't always get away with it by putting medicines in tiers and insisting we lowly consumers actually step through the generics before filling prescriptions for these pseudo-innovations. The single best thing you can do, if you don't like how big Pharma gouges consumers for prescriptions, is to buy generic.
    • +5 Insightful to such idiocy! Slashdotters love a good platitude, I guess.

    • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @04:25PM (#38920051) Journal

      Students do get paid. Just not very much.

    • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @02:53AM (#38924877) Journal
      Why? This wasn't a discovery of a cure. It was a discovery of the cause. If someone provides a cure, why shouldn't they charge what they want?
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Sunday February 05, 2012 @04:44PM (#38936973) Homepage

      While I'd love to see some reform of the drug industry, it isn't quite as black-and-white as you make it out. First, all they discovered is a disease mechanism, not a treatment.

      When somebody does come up with a proposed treatment, it will be after some modest amount of R&D money is spent (might be a lot, might be a little - chances are the study that nails it won't be expensive but all the work that didn't pan out will be). Now you have a drug candidate - a molecule that in a test tube does something that we think will block the disease. What we still don't know is whether it will work in real people, or if it is dangerous. Until you resolve both questions fairly conclusively the FDA won't let you sell it. Determining both requires a series of clinical trials that typically cost $50M or so at least. Often the first compound you test doesn't pan out, so you try another one (after being out some portion of the first $50M with nothing to show for it). Maybe you try 5 and none of them work. Maybe you get it right on the first try. Maybe you spend $500M and figure out that your understanding of the disease was off and it is a dead end.

      In any case, once you do have a compound that you've proven to work, the FDA lets you sell it. At this point you're out an average of $100M or so.when you look at the stuff that did or didn't pan out. For something like Alzheimer's that will be easy to recoup assuming somebody else doesn't come out with a competing drug quickly. For a less common/chronic disease, or if there is quite a bit of competition, you might make at best a modest profit. Some drugs actually lose money - they were studied because it was thought that they would make money, but for one reason or another things went sour - they're still sold since every pill makes a marginal profit (manufacture for cents, sell for dollars), but it might or might not recoup the R&D costs.

      I'm not saying that Pharma companies don't make a lot of money, but if yiou look at their stock it has been pretty flat across the industry for a decade - so it isn't like they're making it hands-over-fists for a while now. Drug R&D involves a lot of costs and most of the bigs ones start well after some university professor publishes the paper that will get the Nobel Prize. Much of that work is semi-routine, but it costs quite a bit of money and the NIH almost never funds it.

      I'd be interested in seeing the NIH do some end-to-end drug testing from lab all the way to market, and then license the compound for free manufacture in the US, in poor countries, and in first-world countries that agree to reciprocate. The final pills probably wouldn't be free, but they'd have costs similar to aspirin/etc in most cases. We could then see how that model works out cost-wise. The NIH might even outsource some of the work to existing drug companies, but would retain all patent rights (basically it would be work-for-hire/etc) - avoiding the creation of bureaucracy and using existing expertise, but getting rid of some of the issues that result from the fairly regressive pricing model that exists for drugs.

  • by NIN1385 ( 760712 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:08PM (#38915821)
    I was getting very depressed with all the bad news about the government and the ignorant shit they are doing. This is some refreshing news to end the week.

    Hopefully I will see a cure for this disease in my lifetime.
  • by jfessler ( 53843 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:10PM (#38915851) Homepage

    I haven't RTFA but "The studies indicate it's not a virus"??? Didn't we already know that?

    • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:38PM (#38916257)
      My thoughts too. Since Margaret Mead had shown that CJ could be transmitted by eating someone's brain in New Guinea in the 1950's.
    • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:05PM (#38917829) Homepage Journal

      We've known about tau protein's involvement in Alzheimers for decades. Specifically, we've known that the protein forms tangles which crush brain cells. That part is beyond old news. What seems to happen is that the tau protein "unzips" from its proper location, resulting in brain cells registering that there is insufficient tau protein in locations where it should be, in turn resulting in a loop that will kill everything in the area.

      What is NOT known is why it unzips. My father's work in the late 80s, early 90s, showed that aluminum toxicity can cause the unzipping process. Later studies have shown that this is not the only pathway, but that there is usually something encased in the tau protein.

      This has led to me speculating that this may have once been a feature, not a bug, that in early life this might have been an environmental detox mechanism (bind toxic chemicals in the area up in protein which is then ejected). This is based on the fact that the brain is unique amongst cells utilizing tau protein in that it has nowhere to eject bound-up toxins and that you don't see these kinds of tangles forming in other contexts where tau protein exists. It would also explain why Alzheimer's looks like it could be virally caused as it would end up with the same look and feel at the neurological level. On the one hand, I've read the papers, I've been involved in the research, I understand the science extremely well. On the other hand, neuroscience is a jealous discipline - even biochemists have a very tough time getting a hearing and I've far less standing than that in the biological sciences - and thus I do not expect this speculation to get looked at. (And, no, this speculation isn't Wikipedia-based. The original thoughts were written up when Gopher was the protocol of choice and really is based on hard, raw data collected in the field. I was, after all, involved in collecting it.) Nonetheless, this finding convinces me that I will prove to have been far closer to the actual mechanism than most of the recognized theories to date. (Yes I'm an old, arrogant, snobbish fart. Now fetch me a lawn so you can gerroff it!)

    • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @02:55AM (#38924881) Journal
      Well, we didn't know the exact cause. Since the disease slowly spreads throughout the brain, one hypothesis was that it was a virus.
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:11PM (#38915857)

    ...of the expression, "I may have Alzheimer's, but at least I don't have Alzheimer's," will change...

  • Provided of course, only if you can afford it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:16PM (#38915937)

      Yeah, tell that to Steve Jobs.

      • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:35PM (#38916219)
        That was his own fault. He decided to try homeopathic voodoo instead of sound, scientifically-validated methods to treat his cancer initially. That resulted in an early diagnosis (with high probablity of complete remission) turning into a late treatment (with far less favorable odds). The key with most agressive cancers is early diagnosis AND early treatment.

        Cases like this are where homeopathy changes from being mostly harmless, and therefore not worthy of much attention, and become outright dangerous.
        • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:55PM (#38916529)

          It wasn't homeopathy in Jobs' case, it was some sort of special dietary regimen.

          I've heard the argument that Jobs was unlucky enough to have a form of the cancer that probably would've have been much better with earlier treatment; that probably doesn't apply to most.

        • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:26PM (#38917065)
          Jobs was a well educated, intelligent man sounded by well educated, intelligent people with a vested financial interest in keeping him alive. I seriously doubt he based his entire treatment off Joe Bob's Snake Oil Voodoo and Cancer Treatment Center of the Internet and Wishful Thinking. Rather, I'm sure he looked at his options and made a personal decision based on his personal wishes and situation. His treatment was his own personal choice. The decision was not pushed on him nor was he ill-informed. I'm sure that many people close to him probably even advised him against it. There is no guarantee that traditional treatment would have saved him and probably would have lowered his quality of life. Conventional cancer treatments come with a price and individuals should be able to chose if it is worth paying.
          • Being intelligent doesn't stop you from being wrong. Steve Jobs' choice was indeed his own, but it was a stupid choice and a wrong choice that he himself later admitted was going to kill him. In his case, his arrogance overrode his intelligence, and he admitted as much. Having said that, his knowledge of cancers was probably extremely limited. Intelligence doesn't grant you skills or knowledge, it merely grants you the ability to attain them faster -- within certain constraints. Intelligence is often limited to specific domains in any given person, leaving them average or below-average outside of those domains. Learning won't change that, nor will personal choice. It's a hard-wired limitation and that's what you've got.

            It is very unlikely Jobs' form of intelligence would function well in the biological sciences. Biology isn't modular or feature-driven. Pathways are long, complex and highly interactive. The kind of amazing hyper-focus that Jobs was capable of is exactly the wrong way to deal with billion-variable hybrid systems like the human body. It's ideal for engineering, where you can black-box everything you don't want to consider right now, but it's useless where there are no boxes to draw.

          • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @03:28PM (#38919271)

            Jobs might have been well-educated and intelligent, but he was fundamentally a salesperson. A very high-powered one. They tend to be crazy. It's usually a fairly specific kind of crazy, but crazy nonetheless. Basically, their success leads them to believe that they can accomplish anything just by force of will and personality. These people are heavily into all that self-actualization motivational stuff. They also really _believe_ in it due to their own success. Confirmation bias leads them to believe that they will always succeed where others have failed.

          • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Monday February 06, 2012 @05:55PM (#38946773)
            According to his biography he simply denied to himself that he had cancer. He was afraid of surgery, a long time believer in the use of fad diets to reach enlightenment, cure disease and render one's body odor nonexistent, and had a near super-human ability to ignore reality (RDF). He tried a fad diet, championed by a renowned snake-oil salesman of an alternative physician, and wasted valuable time. In the end though, he aggressively pursued what ever science-based treatments were available to him and openly regretted his delay.
      • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:54PM (#38916523)

        Well, he wasn't cured, but he lasted a remarkably long time, and managed to get a liver transplant that was very questionable given that he was dying of pancreatic cancer. Usually they don't give organ transplants to people with such a bad prognosis. Getting the liver may have extended his life by about 2 years. It very well could have extended a different patient's life by twenty. He managed to get the liver by spending a lot of money to fly around and visit a lot of different doctors and get on a lot of different waiting lists. Whether he did anything even more questionable than just gaming the system is unknown.

  • by djdanlib ( 732853 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:13PM (#38915883) Homepage

    I'm always suspicious of these 'breakthroughs' when they are introduced via mass media. Somebody thought up a possible cause always gets interpreted to mean that there must be a cure on the way and that's a sexy story to sell the papers, so... Where are the links to peer-reviewed scientific journals? This is Slashdot, a link to the NY Times isn't much more than a start.

  • Folding@Home (Score:5, Informative)

    by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:13PM (#38915887) Journal

    I talked with the researchers involved with Folding@Home, and they told me that indeed, processing power is at least partly used to research Tau protein misfolding.

    So, if you want to do something good for your future (since there is a good chance you'll be hit by Alzheimer's if you live long enough), I suggest contributing your CPU and graphics cards cycles to Folding@Home.

  • PLoS One Link (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:19PM (#38916013)

    Below is a link for the PLoS One article...


  • Nice work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:23PM (#38916071)
    Nice that they've isolated it down to a single protein causing the problem. From what I gathered from the article the protein is supposed to provide the insulation between neural networks as you get older. Shouldn't be long then before they have it isolated down to the gene sequence that causes the protein to go rogue in the first place. Assuming that it's genetic and not some other kind of Prion.
  • by mj1856 ( 589031 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:26PM (#38916105)

    but next thing you know you're in a helicopter, shooting monkeys off the Golden Gate Bridge with a machine gun.

  • by alex67500 ( 1609333 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:43PM (#38916333)

    Does anybody remember Alzheimer's first name?

    No? That's how it starts...

  • by clydoz ( 783793 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @01:51PM (#38917527)
    The relationship of Tau to prions (cause of mad cow disease) is discussed here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3015202/?tool=pubmed [nih.gov] "Tau, prions and A: the triad of neurodegeneration."
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:17PM (#38918105) Homepage Journal
    Now quick, fix it, before Terry Pratchett has to kill himself.
  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:38PM (#38918509)
    The possibility of a very welcome (and no doubt staggeringly pricey) maintenance drug. But not a cure. Never a cure. No. Not yours.
  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @03:52PM (#38919625) Journal

    is why I don't plan on living past my 60's.

  • by Frans Faase ( 648933 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @07:19PM (#38921973) Homepage

    The Tau protein has been known to be involved with Alzheimer's Disease for a long time. For a long time the accumlation of beta amyloid has been thought as the main driving mechanism of Alzheimer's Disease. The Tau-hypothesis has been around for a long time as well. I get the impression that the majority of the research on Alzheimer's Disease has been on beta-amyloid, including finding medication that is targeting this protein. And large sums of money has been invested in this research. I don't know if this finding will suddenly change the focus.of research in Alzheimer's Disease. Actually, I am afraid that it will not make much difference, and that the tau-hypothesis will be considered as an alternative for a long time.

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them.