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Understanding the Biochemistry of Neurodegenerative Disease

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco's Memory and Aging Center look at the behavioral and emotional deficits that characterize patients suffering from degenerative brain diseases, including frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, and Alzheimer's Disease.

Boxer: Really what our long term goal to do is to cure these diseases and the way we cure diseases we think is by understanding what the biochemistry of the disease is, what actually causes the cells to die.

Narrator: Dr. Adam Boxer says the accumulation of a protein called tau is an important factor in cell death in both diseases, but in FTD, another protein called ubiquitin is at play.

Boxer: Since we see ubiquitin so commonly in autopsy specimens from frontotemporal dementia, we also think it's important to start classifying patients as ubiquitin FTD because maybe that would also be a different type of treatment and our guess is that treatments that would work for tau-related FTD wouldn't work for ubiquitin-related FTD.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.