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Annu Rev Pathol. 2015;10:291-319. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathol-020712-163927. Epub 2014 Oct 29.

Emerging concepts in Alzheimer's disease.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (Neuropathology), UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 90095-1732; email:


Alzheimer's disease/senile dementia of the Alzheimer type (AD/SDAT) is the most common neuropathologic substrate of dementia. It is characterized by synapse loss (predominantly within neocortex) as well as deposition of certain distinctive lesions (the result of protein misfolding) throughout the brain. The latter include senile plaques, composed mainly of an amyloid (Aβ) core and a neuritic component; neurofibrillary tangles, composed predominantly of hyperphosphorylated tau; and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a microangiopathy affecting both cerebral cortical capillaries and arterioles and resulting from Aβ deposition within their walls or (in the case of capillaries) immediately adjacent brain parenchyma. In this article, I discuss the hypothesized role these lesions play in causing cerebral dysfunction, as well as CSF and neuroimaging biomarkers (for dementia) that are especially relevant as immunotherapeutic approaches are being developed to remove Aβ from the brain parenchyma. In addition, I address the role of neuropathology in characterizing the sequelae of new AD/SDAT therapies and helping to validate CSF and neuroimaging biomarkers of disease. Comorbidity of AD/SDAT and various types of cerebrovascular disease is a major theme in dementia research, especially as cognitive impairment develops in the oldest old, who are especially vulnerable to ischemic and hemorrhagic brain lesions.


Alzheimer's disease; biomarkers; dementia; immunotherapy; ischemic vascular dementia; mixed dementia; neuropathology

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