Health Care

Mice study raises hope to successfully treat Alzheimer's disease

Mice study raises hope to successfully treat Alzheimer's disease

In a breakthrough, scientists have successfully reversed the formation of amyloid plaques - crucially involved in Alzheimer's disease - in the brains of mice with the neurodegenerative disorder, thus improving their cognitive function.

The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease focused on a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibers used by neurons to communicate across the brain.

Inhibiting the enzyme was expected to slow the formation of amyloid plaques, not cause them to fade away, according to senior researcher Riqiang Yan.

Plaque load was significantly reduced in BACE1fl/fl/UbcCreER/5xFAD mice older than P120 compared with BACE1fl/fl/5xFAD littermates. "Sequential deletion of beta-secretase actually can reverse existing plaques". That is now in phase 3 clinical trials.

"We need studies like this to find out how the two are intertwined and hopefully find the right formula to help prevent Alzheimer's disease", said Dr. Rong Zhang of UT Southwestern, who oversees the clinical trial and is Director of the Cerebrovascular Laboratory in the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where the Dallas arm of the study is being carried out.

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One of the earliest events in Alzheimer's disease was an abnormal buildup of beta-amyloid peptide, which could form large, amyloid plaques in the brain and disrupted the function of neuronal synapses.

It's not even confirmed that amyloid plaques are indeed key to the condition.

Treatment using drugs that block BACE1 can be tricky because the enzyme controls many other important processes, the study authors said in background notes.

Mice completely lacking BACE1 suffer severe neurodevelopmental defects.

Yan, vice chair of neuroscience with the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, told the newspaper that the rodents' intellectual function improved as the plaque dissolved due to a lack of the enzyme. To their surprise, the mice developed normally and appeared to remain perfectly healthy over time. Once it was established that these animals developed healthily they were bred with other mice that had been bred to develop amyloid plaques when they hit 75 days old.

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Loss of BACE1 also improved the learning and memory of mice with Alzheimer's disease.

This draft guidance "gives the field more confidence in being bold about the trials that we design and then carry out", Carrillo said.

However, it remains to be seen whether such improvements observed in lab mice will translate over to human beings.

APECS was a randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, double-blind study (N=1,350) that enrolled patients aged 50-85 years with prodromal Alzheimer's disease.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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