New Book Offers Fresh Take on Neurodegenerative Diseases by Focusing on Shared Features

Aim is to find new insights among unifying principles

When it comes to age-related neurodegenerative diseases, similarities matter. That’s the premise behind a distinctive new academic text edited by two Cleveland Clinic brain health experts.

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Neurodegenerative Diseases: Unifying Principles was released in late 2016 by Oxford University Press. Co-editors Jeffrey Cummings, MD, ScD, and Jagan Pillai, MD, PhD, both of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, say they developed the book explicitly to explore the shared features and challenges linking conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.


“Our field increasingly recognizes the common biological and pathological features across seemingly varied neurodegenerative disorders that involve protein misfolding dysfunction and its long-term consequences,” explains Dr. Pillai.

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“Conventional approaches emphasize the differences among neurodegenerative diseases,” adds Dr. Cummings, Director of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “This book is the result of a conceptual revolution over the past decade or so in our understanding of these diseases as sharing many unifying features. Providing an overview of this conceptual change is a key theme of the book.”

The co-editors set out to do so by assembling a roster of international expert authors to provide insights on their subspecialty areas across the 360-page book’s 19 interrelated chapters.

Most chapters aim to identify common threads among neurodegenerative disorders, be they in molecular biology, pathology, neuroinflammation, physiology, genetics and epigenetics, biomarkers, behavioral syndromes, treatment strategies and more.

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“The specific aim is to present a thorough examination of unifying principles from the subcellular to the systems and clinical levels,” notes Dr. Pillai. “The broader goal is to enable better patient care and promote research collaboration across multiple subspecialties to help advance insights and facilitate novel therapies.”

Such cross-fertilization of ideas is a definite goal, Dr. Cummings emphasizes: “Given the compelling evidence that neurodegenerative diseases share many features, insights in one may be rapidly translated into advances in another.”

For more on the book, visit the Oxford University Press site.