A path toward understanding neurodegeneration

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Science  26 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6302, pp. 872-873
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai7622

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The specter of neurodegenerative disease, particularly Alzheimer's disease, haunts the developed world and exacts a poorly documented toll on underdeveloped countries. With so little progress made toward finding a cure—or, better, a prevention—it is time to rethink the path to progress. This requires a change in perspective on the type of research that will make a difference. The lesson learned from cancer research is that a new commitment means rethinking the fundamental approach to the disease. Cancer research moved from taking potshots with, usually, cytotoxic drugs to a bottom-up, mechanism-based approach in which newly acquired genetic knowledge played the largest role. Today, that effort has produced a platform of knowledge from which academia and industry are drawing. For neurodegenerative disease, the genetic approach remains valid but the problem must concurrently be approached from a complementary, robust cell biological perspective, focusing on the cellular cascade of events that lead to neuronal cell death.