Alzheimer’s Research Breakthrough

October 13, 2013

Elderly Senior Home Care Three People PorchA lot of the cutting edge work being done in dementia comes out of the UK.

Recently, British scientists announced a breakthrough that could set Alzheimer’s research in a new direction, possibly opening the door to new drug-based therapies.  As with all these type of announcements, the work is very early stage – and is easily a decade or more away from human use — but is seen as proof that scientists can use drugs to stop diseased brain cells from dying.

The hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease are tangled proteins that are “mis-folded”.   Most all research to date has focused on how to clear away these protein tangles, the theory being that if you can remove the garbage cells the brain will operate normally.  This breakthrough focuses not on trying to “declog the brain”, but why it is that the tangled proteins cause brain deterioration.  Studies on mice suggest that the protein tangles do not directly kill brain cells.  Instead, cells die because in an attempt to protect themselves, they stop making new proteins, including proteins necessary for survival.

Scientists successfully administered a drug that did not clear away tangled proteins, but rather turned protein production back on.   Mice receiving the drug remained symptom-free.  Mice that did not receive the drug continued to experience cognitive deterioration and eventually died.

In short, the brains of the treated mice were completely protected.

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