Scottish biologists report they have developed man-made compounds capable of blocking nerve cell interactions known to lead to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers believe this finding shows that it may be possible to reverse some of the signs associated with Alzheimer’s.
The biologists at the University of St Andrews found the blocking of nerve cell interactions lead to a successful reversal of the progression of the disease and prevention of the death of brain cells among laboratory animals.
After the procedure the targeted mice displayed improved memory and learning ability overcoming prior brain damage.
The discovery that Alzheimer’s is caused by a toxic protein which kills off nerve cells in the brains of sufferers, has led to the search for a compound which can block or reduce the debilitating interaction.
Alzheimer’s is linked to the build up of amyloid protein which eventually forms ‘senile plaques’. The amyloid protein inflicts damage by interacting with an enzyme called ABAD (Amyloid Beta Alcohol Dehydrogenase) and releasing toxic substances which kill brain cells.
Dr Frank Gunn-Moore’s team, from the University of St Andrews in collaboration with researchers in the US, initially focused on developing the three-dimensional shape of ABAD and understanding how amyloid attaches itself to the structure.
Dr Gunn-Moore, a senior lecturer at the University’s School of Biology said, “Alzheimer’s sufferers produce too much amyloid and ABAD in their brains. Based on our knowledge of ABAD, we produced an inhibitor that can prevent amyloid attaching to it in a living model. We have shown that it is possible to reverse some of the signs associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“The work is now being continued to try and refine the inhibitor into a potential drug. Our research holds a possible key for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in its early stages.”
Source: University of St Andrews