Dementias pp 19-50 | Cite as

The Biological Basis of Dementias

  • M. Racchi
  • S. Govoni


In this chapter we review briefly the state of the art of research on the molecular mechanisms that underlie neurodegenerative dementing illnesses. There is still no cure for any of the dementing neurodegenerative diseases that lead to some form of dementia. Most of the treatments proposed for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias are, by design, effective only in ameliorating symptoms of the disease and, at best, slowing the pace of progression. The time of intervention, due to the complexity of early diagnosis, is often late with respect to the biological onset of the disease and therefore limits the final efficacy of the treatment. In neurodegenerative diseases where the progression of degeneration can be slowed, possibly stopped but theoretically not reversed, the time of intervention is an extremely important issue. Searching for the molecular and biological basis of dementing disorders provides an opportunity to identify targets of pharmacological intervention. Early biochemical markers of the onset of the disease could allow treatment at early stages; identification of genetic risk factors can direct new efforts at studying molecular targets for prevention. Clinical variability among populations of affected patients is certainly due to differences in genetic and biochemical backgrounds, and these can also account for the differences in effectiveness of therapeutic intervention. Only molecular dissection of the pathogenetic processes can provide the information needed to increase the likelihood that a specific treatment will be effective.


Lewy Body Prion Protein Prion Disease PRNP Gene Fatal Familial Insomnia 
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© Springer-Verlag Italia 1999

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  • M. Racchi
  • S. Govoni

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