Alzheimer's disease devastates not just those who suffer from it, but also their family and loved ones, who watch helplessly as the condition takes its toll. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Alzheimer's, however, is the question of its cause; why do some people get it, while others retain their mental faculties late in life?
A study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature suggests that the answer may be a protein previously thought to function only in fetuses, but which researchers now say may protect the brain later in life. The protein, called repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor (REST) appears to be lost in patients with Alzheimer's and other mild cognitive impairment. Here's The New York Times on the essential role this protein may play: