Scientists Test a New Alzheimer’s Therapy on Mice – Could It Work on Humans?
More than 5.7 million people in America are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most prevalent form of dementia in the world today. As the number of cases for Alzheimer’s grow in the U.S., experts estimate that the treatment for this brain disease will cost the healthcare sector at least $277 billion in 2018 alone – without taking into account the loss of careers and the emotional suffering it inflicts on patients.
Unfortunately, no cure for the disease has been found until now but a new research is giving patients a small glimmer of hope that there may be a chance for getting rid of Alzheimer’s after all.
Scientist Test a New Therapy on Mice
Scientists are testing out a new therapy on animals to dissolve amyloid plaque buildup in the brain which has been linked with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in old age. Although this sticky plaque buildup is completely symptomless, it is considered the most crucial indicator of increased Alzheimer’s risk in the future whereas many researchers even believe that plaque buildup could be the root cause of the brain disease.
There have been numerous scientific efforts to reduce the amount of amyloid in brain but none of the treatments discovered before have successfully been able to reverse the plaque buildup. However, the new therapy has proven to be more effective than the others since it attacks a specific protein inside the plaque buildup called APOE.
The scientists used a special group of mice, genetically engineered to carry the APOE protein found in humans, for the research. After being injected with anti-APOE chemicals, the mice showed reduced levels of plaque buildup.
The researcher who conducted the experiment reported that the amyloid level in the mice’s brains had been cut by half after being injected with the new drug. The results are considered a huge breakthrough in the science community since this is the closest researchers have ever come to developing a therapy that is effective in curing Alzheimer’s.
The New Drug Cuts Plaque Buildup by Half
Researchers responsible for developing the new therapy agree that the real instigator of Alzheimer’s disease is the amyloid plaque buildup which initiates the process of cognitive decline in old age. They speculate that if the plaque could be removed from the brain during the early stages of Alzheimer’s, it could slow down or even reverse the cognitive damage associated with the disease.
Holtzman, the chairman of Washington University School of Medicine’s neurology department says that out of the 5.7 million Americans who have the disease, most are senior citizens. The disease currently holds the sixth spot in the list of leading causes of death, but with no effective cure in sight, it could quickly rise up the ranks and become one of the most common diseases related to old age.
Could it Work on Humans?
The mice that were injected with the therapy showed signs of lower human APOE after the antibodies activated their immune system, causing it to destroy plaque buildup in brain. However, the amyloid-reducing effect in each mouse depended on the concentration of antibodies it was injected with.
Despite the promising results, Holtzman isn’t sure if the removal of plaque from a patient’s brain will effectively reduce their Alzheimer’s risk, since there isn’t any clear evidence that indicates that amyloid buildup is the sole cause of the disease. He also said that there is no guarantee that the new treatment will work on humans the same way it worked on the mice in the experiment. Holtzman explained that the treatment will first need to be inspected in the lab and converted into molecules that are safe for humans before continuing to the next testing phase using real Alzheimer’s patients.
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