Following on from yesterday’s post about predicting the rate of mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients, new research may provide insight into a new treatment.
Researchers at UCL, London have discovered antibodies that halt the process of synapse degradation. The hope is that this information can be used to create a new therapy to prevent memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients or to stop further mental decline
One hypothesis relating to Alzheimer’s disease is that it is caused by deposits of a protein known as Amyloid beta. Amyloid beta binds to the nerves in the hippocampus and attacks the synapses meaning that memories are lost and new ones cannot be formed.
The researchers have discovered that specific antibodies can block the action of another protein, known as Dkk1, which completely suppresses the toxicity of Amyloid beta. Elevated Dkk1 levels are found in brain biopsies of people suffering from Alzheimer’s but the significance of this was unknown until recently.
Dkk1 is actually produced by Amyloid beta and is what directly mediates the break down of neuronal synapses in the hippocampus. Therefore, the antibodies discovered are the key to preventing synaptic damage in the hippocampus and preventing memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients.
The methodology of the experiments involved measuring the rate and extent of synaptic degradation after exposure to Amyloid beta in brain slices from mice. They were able to directly compare the extent of synaptic damage in brain slices with the antibody against Dkk1 and those without. The results were astounding – in the presence of the Dkk1 antibodies all hippocampal synapses remained healthy and showed no signs of degradation at all.
This information could possibly pave the way to a new treatment for Alzheimer’s that will alleviate some of the symptoms and decrease the rate of mental decline.
Current studies predict that Alzheimer’s is increasing at an epidemic porportion, so this kind of treatment will have massive benefits to society as a whole as well as to individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s.