Breakthrough May Speed Development of Alzheimer’s Cure

November 6, 2014 | By Lorenzo Mejia

In an astounding breakthrough, researchers at a Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston succeeded in growing Alzheimer’s in a petri dish.

This solves a huge problem of how to study Alzheimer’s and search for drugs to treat it.  Until this point, researchers have been forced to perform tests on mice (which develop an imperfect form of the disease.)  Now, researchers can use actual human Alzheimer’s cells grown in a laboratory.

The scientists began by growing human brain cells in a gel, where they formed networks as in an actual brain.  They introduced Alzheimer’s genes into the brain cells.  Within a short time, the cells developed the hard clumps known as plaques and then the twisted coils known as tangles.  These are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

This advance has the potential to dramatically speed up evaluation of new drugs.

One hope is to find drugs for other diseases that are known to be safe and work on Alzheimer’s in the petri dish.

The researchers have now launched a project to evaluate over 1,000 drugs on the market and 5,000 ones considered experimental.  Such a task would have been undoable with mice, because each drug test can take a year.   With this “Alzheimer’s in a Dish” system, thousands of drugs can be tested in the same time frame.

 

 

 

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