Could Antibodies or Hormones Slow Brain Damage from Alzheimer’s?
Scientists have discovered that certain antibodies may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Patricia Salinas of University College London, UK, and her team focused on a protein called Dkk1, present in raised levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Using brain samples from mice, the team looked at the progressive disintegration of synapses in the hippocampus when exposed to a protein called amyloid-beta, thought to be central to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Synaptic loss mediated by amyloid-beta in early stages of the disease might contribute to cognitive impairments,” explain the experts. “However, little is known about the mechanism by which amyloid-beta induces the loss of synapses.”
Tests showed that Dkk1 is linked to abnormal deposits, or plaques, of amyloid-beta, triggering the loss of synapses, the connections between neurons. Laboratory tests showed that amyloid-beta causes greater production of Dkk1.
Further tests indicated that antibodies which block the function of Dkk1 can suppress this toxic effect of amyloid-beta. The hippocampus, a brain area associated with learning and memory, is in turn protected.
The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Dr. Salinas says, “Despite significant advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease, no effective treatment is currently available to stop the progression of this devastating disease.
“These novel findings raise the possibility that targeting this secreted Dkk1 protein could offer an effective treatment to protect synapses against the toxic effect of amyloid-beta. Importantly, these results raise the hope for a treatment and perhaps the prevention of cognitive decline early in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Simon Ridley of the study’s funders, Alzheimer’s Research UK, commented, “We’re delighted to have supported this study, which sheds new light on the processes that occur as Alzheimer’s develops. By understanding what happens in the brain during Alzheimer’s, we stand a better chance of developing new treatments that could make a real difference to people with the disease.