A pill or potion that dissolves away one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain could be in sight after ground-breaking animal studies.
Scientists who added the molecule to the drinking water of affected mice found that harmful protein fragment deposits in their brains were broken down. Moreover, the animals also showed improvements in memory and learning.
The new approach is said to look promising, especially for the treatment of people at risk from inherited forms of the disease.
The way the drug works is unclear but it is believed to make the amyloid beta ‘plaques’ that build up in the brains of patients soluble, so they can be cleared away.
However, it may only be effective before clinical symptoms appear, highlighting the importance of finding new ways to diagnose cases earlier.
Amyloid accumulation is believed to occur first, leading on to other changes such as the formation of ‘tangles’ of tau protein within nerve cells that actually trigger the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s.
Frances Edwards, a reader in neurophysiology at University College London, pointed out that most people with the disease are only diagnosed after theappearance of “considerable loss of brain tissue”.
Commenting on the findings published in the journal Nature Communications, he said: “Many more tests need to be done but for people with the rare inherited forms where Alzheimer’s disease can be predicted long in advance, this could be a very interesting drug indeed.”
The research was conducted by a South Korean team led by YoungSoo Kim from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology in Seoul.
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