A Cure for Alzheimer’s?

January 10, 2015

A study at Stanford University sheds exciting light on what may lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s!  Scientists found that by blocking the activity of a single molecule in the brains of mice, they successfully reversed cognitive decline as well as other dementia-like symptoms.

The researchers focused on microglia, which are a type of immune cell in the brain.  When the microglia function correctly, they eliminate many bacteria, viruses and foreign cells that contribute to dementia.  People with properly functioning microglia typically have healthy brains.  People with Alzheimer’s have microglia that function poorly.

The study identified that this deterioration in function is largely due to a single molecule, called EP2, found on the surface of the microglia.  When there are low levels of EP2, there is little inflammation in the brain.  The researchers found that by blocking EP2 activity, they could significantly improve the mice’s ability to remember.

As exciting as this research is, we are still is a long way from having products that are commercially available for Alzheimer’s sufferers.   We need to keep in mind the following:

– The study was conducted with mice, not humans
– The study targeted EP2 in cells called “macrophages”, because they are easy to harvest in the lab.  Macrophages are similar to, but are NOT the “microglia” cells that a drug would need to target.
– A cure would need to figure out the drug mechanism to target EP2 in human microglia
– Due to FDA approval process, any cure is still many years away…. 10?  15?

The blogosphere was abuzz with discussion of a cure for Alzheimer’s.   If you read Stanford’s own report, it is much more muted.  It is a big breakthrough, but it’s not  a cure.

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