Understanding the prevalence of LATE, a new form of dementia

Research project: Limbic-predominant, Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy in the population.

Lead Investigator: Professor Carol Brayne

  • Institution: Cambridge Institute of Public Health
  • Grant type: Project
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £288,801.69

Why did we fund this research?

Comment from our Research Network volunteers

'A research topic which could change the way a group of people with dementia could have their treatment and care options very much improved with a more specific diagnosis.'

Project summary

Professor Brayne and her team aim to understand how common a new type of dementia, LATE, is in older people and the role of the TDP-43 protein in dementia.

By studying donated human brains, the researchers will look at how common and how severe TDP-43 abnormalities are in older people.

This study aims to lead to the development of tests to measure how changes in TDP-43 relates to dementia in older people and to use this understanding to search for treatments to help those with dementia. 

The background 

There are several different types of dementia, each with distinct features and characteristics. Researchers recently identified a new type of dementia called ‘Limbic-predominant, Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy’, or LATE. This type of dementia is thought to involve changes in one specific protein, known as TDP-43.  

However, we don’t only see TDP-43 abnormalities in dementia. They can occur in the brains of people with other diseases. With a limited understanding the role of TDP-43 in the human brain and in dementia, LATE is often misdiagnosed as other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

Understanding the relationships between TDP-43 abnormalities and dementia is essential if we are to fully understand how TDP-43 affects brain ageing in the population and how it contributes to LATE.

What does this project involve?

The project will look at the relationships between dementia and TDP-43 in many areas in brains donated by participants in the Cambridge City over 75s Cohort and the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study I. These large studies of brain ageing in older people contain over 800 brain donations combined.

 The researchers will describe how common and how severe TDP-43 abnormalities are across the brain in older people. They aim to find if any of these TDP-43 abnormalities relate to any of the symptoms associated with LATE. This will add to knowledge of how these abnormalities contribute to dementia and how they interact with the other abnormalities that have already been studied. 

How will this project help people with dementia?

This work will build on our knowledge of TDP-43 and its role in LATE. It could help us understand whether there are features of the disease that help us to distinguish it from other forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease. It may also enable researchers to develop experimental laboratory systems that better represent the disease, which could ultimately lead to the development of disease-modifying treatments. 

Echoing the comment from the Research Network volunteer, this study has the potential to improve many people’s lives, by helping people who are often misdiagnosed receive improved treatment and care due to a more accurate diagnosis. 

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