'Turning point' in Alzheimer's research
Published on 10 October 2013 02:00 PM
A British study has tested a drug that could halt the death of brain cells, signalling a possible 'turning point' in the fight against dementia.
The study examined a drug's effects on sick mice. Experts are clear that the findings of the study are significant, and could mark a turning point in the battle against diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) examined abnormally shaped proteins that stick together in fibres, forming the root cause of many degenerative brain disorders.
When enough of these malformed proteins build up, it causes a reaction that can lead to the death of brain cells.
While earlier studies have sought to tackle the accumulation of the protein itself, the MRC experts focused on how neurons react to the proteins.
When a drug was injected into the stomachs of mice, it triggered a cellular 'switch' which could prevent brain cells from dying.
In the weeks that followed treatment, one group of mice showed no signs of symptoms such as reflex disorders, limb dragging and memory loss. They also lived longer than the untreated animals.
'Experts are clear that the findings of the study are significant'
Scientists stressed that some of the mice suffered serious side effects including higher blood sugar and massive weight loss, and insisted that human trials are a long way off.
The research, reported in the journal Science Transitional Medicine, examined a disease caused by abnormal prion proteins that was induced in the mice.
Prion diseases, such as CJD, are rare in humans but the misfolded proteins trigger is the same as in conditions such as Alzheimer's.
Lead scientist Professor Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester, said: 'Our previous study predicted that this pathway could be a target for treatment to protect brain cells in neurodegenerative disease.
'So we administered a compound that blocks it to mice with prion disease. We were extremely excited when we saw the treatment stop the disease in its tracks and protect brain cells, restoring some normal behaviours and preventing memory loss in the mice.'
Copyright Press Association 2013