“Scientists have hailed an historic ‘turning point’ in the search for a medicine that could beat Alzheimer’s disease,” is the exciting news in The Independent. This headline comes from an early study of the effects of a new drug on mice with a type of neurodegenerative brain disease.
The scientists infected the mice with a prion disease. Prion diseases cause a build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain. This causes brain cells to “switch off” the production of normal proteins. Without these normal proteins, the brain cells die, causing memory and behavioural problems.
This build-up of abnormal proteins is a similar pattern to what occurs in humans with Alzheimer’s disease, though there is no evidence that prions are associated with the condition.
Researchers found that the new drug prevents this switch from turning from “on” to “off”, stopping brain cell death. Encouragingly, mice treated with the drug did not develop the memory and behavioural symptoms of prion disease.
This is the first time researchers have prevented brain cell death. Current drugs for Alzheimer’s can only reduce the speed at which cell death occurs.
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