Scientists Develop New Strategy To Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted: Oct 23 2016, 7:16am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 23 2016, 7:22am CDT , in Latest Science News


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Scientists Develop New Strategy to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Taking a pill that prevents the accumulation of toxic molecules in the brain might someday help prevent or delay Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects millions of people every year and at the moment it is not reversible. However, a new strategy presented by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine could be a major step towards finding a cure for this disease.

Researchers believe if they can overcome those early changes in the brain that occur long before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are evident and lead to the long-term mental deterioration, they can develop pill or better treatment for the disease.

“Scientists in the field have been focusing mostly on the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author Cristian Lasagna-Reeves from Zoghbi lab. “Here we tried to find clues about what is happening at the very early stages of the illness, before clinical irreversible symptoms appear, with the intention of preventing or reducing those early events that lead to devastating changes in the brain decades later.”

The hallmark of Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s disease is the abnormal accumulation of certain proteins in the brain. Tau is one of the proteins involved in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe if they can reduce or prevent development of this protein, they can possibly nip the disease in the bud.

The amount of these proteins in the brain is controlled by other proteins called enzymes. To find out which enzymes affect tau accumulation, reseachers tested hundreds of enzymes called kinases one by one. Researchers screened fruit fly - a widely used model system for this purpose and found that one kinase called Nuak1 was causing to reduce the levels of tau.

“Screening hundreds of kinases in the fruit fly animal model was critical because we can assess degeneration caused by tau in the fly's nervous system and measure neuronal dysfunction. Screening such a large number cannot be done with other animal models like the mouse and cultured cells cannot model complex nervous system functions.” Co-author Dr. Juan Botas from Baylor College of Medicine said.

Researchers have also done experiments on human cells and mouse to confirm the outcome and found that decrease of Nuak1 levels results in fewer tau tangle accumulation indeed.

“We found one enzyme, Nuak1, whose inhibition consistently resulted in lower levels of tau in both human cells and fruit flies. Then we took this result to a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease and hoped that the results would hold, and they did. Inhibiting Nuak1 improved the behavior of the mice and prevented brain degeneration,” said Zoghbi.

“Tau is a protein that when it accumulates as the person ages, increases the vulnerability of the brain to developing Alzheimer’s. So, may be if we can find drugs that can help tau at levels that are not toxic for the brain, then we would be able to prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s and other diseases cause in part by toxic tau accumulation.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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