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Breakthrough in Alzheimer's Treatment?
If people suffer from Alzheimer's, this leads to a memory loss for those affected. Experts have long been looking for ways to prevent or reverse these effects of the disease. Physicians have now managed to reverse memory loss in Alzheimer's mice. Could this also be possible for people with Alzheimer's?
The University of Buffalo scientists found that it is possible to reverse the memory loss of mice with Alzheimer's. The researchers published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Brain".
There is still no treatment to cure Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's affects the ability of neurons to transmit electrical signals in areas of the brain responsible for memory formation. There are currently no treatments that can cure or delay the progression of the disease in the long run. The scientists examined genetic changes that affect how DNA instructions in cells (called epigenetics) are read and expressed. By deciphering what epigenetic changes affect neuron signaling and memory loss, physicians attempted to determine which drugs might be effective in treating the condition.
Memory loss could be eliminated
Not only have physicians identified the epigenetic factors that contribute to memory loss, they have also found ways to temporarily reverse them in an animal model of Alzheimer's disease, says study author Professor Zhen Yan from the University of Buffalo.
Alzheimer's causes important receptors to be broken down
Most research is focused on fighting the build-up of toxic deposits of protein molecules. Professor Yan and his colleague examined another factor that affects memory formation. They found that neurons in the cerebral cortex gradually lost receptors for an important neurotransmitter (glutamate) - in parts of the brain that are responsible for working memory. Post-mortem examinations in Alzheimer's patients showed that they lacked these receptors. This led doctors to a certain group of enzymes that could influence the genes responsible for neurotransmitter production. When these enzyme inhibitors were given to mice with Alzheimer's disease, the maintenance of cognitive function was confirmed by evaluations of the so-called recognition memory, spatial memory and working memory, explains Professor Yan.
Improvements were short-lived
These improvements only lasted a week, but Prof. Yan and his colleagues are working on refining an administration method that enables the drug to reach more neurons in the brain and achieve a stronger effect.
More research is needed
However, the short-lived findings in mice do not guarantee that the same effects will also occur in humans. One of the most exciting aspects of epigenetic research is that the changes may be reversible, says Dr. Rosa Sancho from Alzheimer's Research UK on the results of the study. The results obtained on mice must now also be checked on humans. (as)