“This changes the paradigm,” Tanzi said. “People thought these plaques formed over decades.”
Along with the new hypothesis came the questions, though: Was amyloid-beta forming in the brain to protect it from something? If so, what exactly? Is there a way to ward off what it’s protecting the brain from? And, of course, is this too crazy to be true?
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“I was totally gobsmacked when I first heard this story. I was very skeptical,” Sam Gandy, an Alzheimer’s professor and researcher with Mount Sinai, told The Daily Beast. But research Gandy has since seen out of Mount Sinai and Banner Alzheimer’s Center in Phoenix made him think Tanzi and Moir might be onto something. There are also other amyloids in the body—in semen, that can help block HIV—that strengthen Tanzi and Moir’s model regarding the likelihood that something similar happens in the brain, Gandy said.
David M. Holtzman, MD, a neurology professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who researches genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s but hadn’t worked with Tanzi and Moir, was skeptical as well.
“I was mostly surprised, I never thought about it as a possibility. It wasn’t that I thought this was so far out, I just thought, ‘This is new, this is very different,’” he told The Daily Beast.
The next step is to figure out how to stop the amyloid-beta before it starts, as researchers have found that treating amyloid once it’s already formed doesn’t work or halt cognitive decline.