Researchers define six types of Alzheimer’s disease. Why that matters to you.
by Stacey Burling, Updated: December 27, 2018- 6:00 AM
Researchers define six types of Alzheimer’s disease. Why that matters to you.

A study that analyzed the interplay of Alzheimer's symptoms and genetic differences has found evidence for six subtypes of the deadly dementia.

The findings are important because they provide evidence that treatments that may work for some patients might not help others with a different genetic profile. This has implications for clinical trials -- the tested drug may look less effective if many study subjects don't have the right kind of dementia -- and could eventually lead to more personalized treatment. Genetic differences are a sign that the biological underpinnings of symptoms may be different and thus could respond to different medications.

"What we are saying is that there is a lot of heterogeneity in Alzheimer's," said Shubhabrata Mukherjee, a research assistant profession in general internal medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine who led the study. "You cannot label everyone with Alzheimer's disease and say that's it."

It has been frustratingly difficult to find treatments that prevent or treat Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Until fairly recently, doctors could definitively diagnose the disease only by examining the brains of patients after they had died. New imaging techniques that make it easier to see key brain changes in living patients have improved diagnostic accuracy. Doctors have also learned that many patients have more than one type of dementia. For example, it is common to have Alzheimer’s disease as well as vascular dementia, a type of cognitive decline caused by poor blood circulation in the brain...