Sidebar: Genetics of Alzheimer's Disease -- Further Information

At its annual meeting in November 1995, the Society for Neuroscience hosted a lively debate on whether ß-amyloid deposition is the cause of Alzheimer's disease. The debate was light in tone, but that masked real and often rancorous divisions in the field (R. Finn, The Scientist, Oct. 16, 1995, page 14.). Since then, significant advances in this rapidly developing discipline have generated considerable excitement among Alzheimer's researchers. These include the discovery that mutations in two "presenilin" genes directly cause the disease-apparently through a mechanism involving a certain form of ß-amyloid-and the development of no fewer than three realistic mouse models.

Back in 1907, Alois Alzheimer first noticed the two main neuropathological hallmarks of the disease-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles-in the brain tissue of a 51-year-old demented woman. The idea that abnormal deposition of ß-amyloid (also called Ab) was the...

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