New Research Bring Breakthrough Treatment for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and over five million Americans are living with it. Research is key to understand the disease and provide breakthroughs in treating it.

People afflicted AD and other neurodegenerative diseases have brains dotted with the protein tau, a normal brain protein. There has not been an easy way to determine if people’s symptoms are linked to tau in their brains. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found a way to measure tau levels in the blood.

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The method the researchers use gives an accurate representation of tau levels in the brain. Researchers conducted a study in mice and small group of people. More evaluation is needed, but blood test could be a way to easily screen for tau-based diseases, monitor the progression of such diseases and measure the effectiveness of treatments. The research was published in Science Translational Medicine.

“We showed that you can measure tau in the blood, and it provides insight into the status of tau in the fluid surrounding cells in the brain,” said senior author David Holtzman, MD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine.

A team of scientists developed a genetic score to predict the age people would develop AD. Their findings were published last month in PLOS Medicine. Researchers analyzed the genotype data of over 70.000 AD patients and focused on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with AD. They developed a polygenic hazard score (PHS) based on the data and tested it. What they found is that people with high PHS scores developed AD 10 to 15 years earlier than people with low PHS scores.

The PHS score “provides a novel way not just to assess an individual’s lifetime risk of developing AD, but also to predict the age of disease onset,” said senior author Anders Dale, PhD, director of the Center for Translational Imaging and Precision Medicine and professor in neurosciences, radiology, psychiatry and cognitive science at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Continuous polygenic testing of AD genetic risk can better inform prevention and therapeutic trials and be useful in determining which individuals are most likely to respond to therapy.”

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Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine looked at ways to reduce or prevent tau accumulation in the brain, in a study published in the journal Neuron in 2016. To determine which enzymes affect tau accumulation, researchers inhibited certain enzymes called kinases. They screened the enzymes using both cultured human cells and fruit flies. Researchers were able to inhibit “about 600 kinases one by one and found one, called Nuak1, whose inhibition resulted in reduced levels of tau,” said Dr. Huda Zoghbi, professor of molecular and human genetics and of pediatrics - neurology and developmental neuroscience at Baylor and director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.

These studies and understanding of the mechanisms of Alzheimer's show promise and hope for suffers and their families.

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman| April 20, 2017
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!

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