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Researchers find cause of frontotemporal dementia

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) is the second major form of dementia. Under the direction of Christine Van Broeckhoven, researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) affiliated to the University of Antwerp have recently discovered that the progranulin growth factor plays an important biological role in the development of this form of dementia. Because progranulin is known primarily for its role in tumor formation, this research result is very surprising. Although progranulin's proper role in the brain is not yet known, it may well be responsible for the survival of brain cells, because FTD patients have a shortage of this growth factor. The new finding predicts that progranulin might also play a role in other types of brain diseases in which brain cells die off ?such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Frontotemporal dementia
After Alzheimer's, frontotemporal dementia is the most prevalent form of dementia in patients younger than 65. FTD affects the frontal lobe, causing the brain tissue to die off. The frontal lobe is the foremost part of the brain and accounts for about 30% of the brain's mass. Among other things, the frontal lobe is involved in regulating behavior, movement and mood, and is responsible for cognitive functions like memory and speech. So, FTD is clinically characterized by changes in personality and, in a later stage, loss of cognitive functions.

Looking for the needle in the haystack
Genetic research has previously shown that FTD is caused by a defect in chromosome 17. Chromosome 17 is the carrier of the tau protein's hereditary code, and defects in this protein cause tau-positive FTD. However, there is another form of FTD that occurs much more frequently than tau-positive FTD ?namely, ubiquitin-positive FTD (FTDU). Patients with FTDU do not have a defect in the tau protein, but in another protein in chromosome 17. Christine Van Broeckhoven's research team has now i
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Source:VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology


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