New Clues into a Serious Neurodegenerative Disease

A new study sheds light on the basic biology of frontotemporal dementia caused by a particular genetic mutation

A drawing of a brain inside a human head, with the front portion of the brain being erased
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Dementia encompasses a range of neurodegenerative conditions that lead to memory loss and cognitive deficiencies and affect some 55 million people worldwide. Yet despite its prevalence, there are few effective treatments, in part because scientists still don’t understand how exactly dementia arises on a cellular and molecular level.

Now, a team led by scientists at Harvard Medical School and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has made progress in unraveling the mechanism underlying a type of dementia that strikes early in life.

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In a study published Oct. 7 in Nature Communications, researchers discovered that a genetic form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is associated with accumulation of specific lipids in the brain — and this accumulation results from a protein deficiency that interferes with cell metabolism.