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Scientists successfully treat Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice


November 30, 2012

Plaque deposits in the brain tissue of an untreated mouse (left), and one treated in the study

Plaque deposits in the brain tissue of an untreated mouse (left), and one treated in the study

By turning off an immune system transmitter in mice with an Alzheimer’s-like condition, scientists have been able to greatly reduce the accumulation of an abnormal protein known as amyloid-ß in the animals’ brains. Previous studies have shown that the protein plays a central role in Alzheimer’s disease. It is hoped that the research may ultimately point the way towards a method of preventing or treating the disease in humans.

The project was led by Prof. Frank Heppner from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and Prof. Burkhard Becher from the University of Zurich.

In mice that had a build-up of amyloid-ß “plaque” in their brains, the scientists blocked an immune molecule called p40, which is a component of the cytokines (immune system signal transmitters) interleukin (IL)-12 and -23. This effectively turned off those cytokines, which in turn reduced the animals’ plaque build-up by up to 65 percent.

In a follow-up study, in which an antibody was used to block the p40 molecules of afflicted mice, substantial improvements in their behavioral testing resulted. This ties in with the scientists’ observation that p40 levels are higher in the brain fluid of Alzheimer’s patients, and with a previous study that noted high levels of the molecule in patients’ blood plasma.

Heppner and Becher are still trying to understand the exact cause/effect relationship between p40, the cytokines and Alzheimer’s, but hope to move on to clinical human trials soon. There are already p40-blocking medications for conditions such as psoriasis, that have been shown to be safe.

In a separate study conducted at Ohio’s Case Western University, an anticancer drug has also been used to reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice.

A paper on the p40-blocking research was recently published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Source: University of Zurich

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

In that case, I'll do anything I can to get my hands on an already available drug that could potentially save the life of a person very dear to me. Screw the FDA!

Bruce Williams

Methylene Blue dye has also worked, but AFAIK trials were ended because some of the people had an adverse reaction.

It's impossible to have anything injected, swallowed or implanted into the human body be 100% safe for everyone. Some % will always have a negative reaction and some % it won't do any good, or harm.

That's why tests are developed to check if the drug etc will cause problems before using it.

But the "safety nazis" insist it has to be as near 100% safe as possible or nobody gets to have it.

Gregg Eshelman
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