Alzheimer’s disease is a deadly neurodegenerative disorder and there’s no cure for it. But scientists appear to have found a compound that could be used to develop a drug for treating patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other disorders.
As you might know, when a brain cell is hijacked by a virus the result is the building up of viral proteins. The cells defend by stopping almost all protein production for making sure that the virus doesn’t spread.
The same defense mechanism is triggered by many neurodegenerative disorders which involve the production of “misfolded” (faulty) proteins. But the cells shut down the production of proteins for so long (due to the continued presence of misfolded proteins) that they die due to starvation. This mechanism can lead to the death of neurons throughout the brain, resulting in movement or memory problems or can even be fatal depending on the disorder.
The compound that was used by the scientists prevented the triggering of the defence mechanisms, so there was no neurodegeneration. When the compound was used on mice, it prevented all neuron death from prion disease.
Of course, more research is required on the compound before a drug can be developed for use on humans, but this certainly seems to be a good start.
According to Dr Eric Karran, the director of research at the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, “Targeting a mechanism relevant to a number of neurodegenerative diseases could yield a single drug with wide-reaching benefits, but this compound is still at an early stage. It will be important for these findings to be repeated and tested in models of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease“.
According to Prof Roger Morris, from King’s College London, “This finding, I suspect, will be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer’s disease“.
Head here if you are interested in knowing more about the study.
A new test for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers from the McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste and the University of Florida (UF) have discovered a new test for detecting Alzheimer’s disease which is often accompanied by a loss of the sense of smell. And they used peanut butter for this test. 18 patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD), 24 patients having mild cognitive impairment, 26 who had other causes of dementia, and 26 matched controls were involved in the small pilot study.
Jennifer Stamps, a graduate student, and her UF advisor Kenneth Heilman tested the patients by closing their eyes and allowing them to smell a tablespoon of peanut butter. They tested one nostril at a time and measured the distance between the nose and the tablespoon at which the patients were able to sense the smell.
The test revealed that there were differences in smell sensitivity between the right and left nostrils of early-stage AD patients. And in those patients, the left nostril was found to be more severely impaired. There were no such smell sensitivity differences in the other patients.
According to the researchers, “Portions of olfactory cortex are the initial sites of AD pathology, and patients with AD often have more degeneration of their left than right hemisphere. This non-invasive and inexpensive left–right nostril odor detection test appears to be a sensitive and specific test for probable AD”.
Of course, their research is not yet complete. Stamp says, “At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis, but we plan to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be used to predict which patients are going to get Alzheimer’s disease”.
You can check out this link to know more about their study.
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