Scientists may have found a way to cure Alzheimer’s and dementia in the future, according to research published this week.
Protects Brain Cells
A study by British scientists found success in halting cell death in the brains of mice. This is the first time in history that scientists have been able to stop brain cell death, spurring many to hail this study as a “turning point” in the attempt to cure Alzheimer’s.
Researchers were able to identify a compound that holds the ability to block a faulty brain signal that appears with the disease. In the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, the signal results in the shutdown of essential protein production, leading to the death of brain cells that are unprotected by those missing proteins. The compound could be potentially be given in pill form, showing promise for a simple and effective way to halt Alzheimer’s in humans.
The test was conducted on mice who were plagued with Prion disease, a degenerative brain disease similar to dementia in humans. Though it is not exactly the same, scientists are confident that the results will apply similarly to the human brain.
Implications of Study
Study leader Professor Giovanna Mallucci explained the significance of the findings to the Independent: “It’s a real step forward. It’s the first time a substance has been given to mice that prevents brain disease. The fact that this is a compound that can be given orally, that gets into the brain and prevents brain disease, is a first in itself… We can go forward and develop better molecules and I can’t see why preventing this process should only be restricted to mice. I think this probably will translate into other mammalian brains.”
Some side effects of the compound were noted, including weight loss and mild diabetes, caused by damage to the pancreas, which might cause some concern, but Professor Mallucci expressed his opinion that it would “not be impossible” to develop a drug that protects the cells without the additional negative side effects.
Though scientists were encouraged by this work, they were quick to caution that creating a drug from the compound could take upwards of a decade.
Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “If this process is also working overtime in these conditions too, targeting it could be a promising avenue for investigation. However, what is true in animals does not always hold true in people and the ultimate test for this compound will be to see whether it is safe and effective in people with these diseases.”
The study was conducted by the University of Leicester and published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Effect of Dementia in the US
The number of Americans affected with Alzheimer’s and dementia currently tops 5 million, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. Scientists and researchers all over the world continue to conduct studies in hopes of finding a cure, treatment, or preventative measure that will be effective in ridding humans of the disease. Thus far, none have been successful in identifying a guaranteed treatment, but information on how to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia abounds, from engaging in mentally stimulating activities to keeping your body strong through exercise and “brain foods”.
As the aging population becomes more affected by dementia, it becomes more important to consider this type of risk as you age. Read more about the prevalence of dementia in long term care or discover ways to protect your health and assets from the high cost of care in the future.