As the first five of the nation’s 27 Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers system marked their 30th birthday, one of them celebrated with a scientific conference at Massachusetts General Hospital. Blending the past, present, and future, scientists told stories of how the discovery of the first presenilin mutation today lives on in structural work to find better γ-secretase drugs, or how an overlooked gel band visible since the 1990s now hints at an unappreciated APP cleavage and adds a new twist to explore in BACE1 inhibitor drugs. Others summarized the latest on characterizing the Alzheimer’s prodrome and sharpening tools to target it in secondary prevention trials. Along the way, conference attendees learned that, laid out flat, the cortical mantle of the human brain is the size of a large pizza, a factoid that matters to understanding Alzheimer’s.
MGH meeting traces arc of scientific discoveries from 1980s to today’s cutting edge.