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Potentially huge breakthrough in Alzheimer's prevention

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  • Potentially huge breakthrough in Alzheimer's prevention

    Researchers stop brain cells in mice from dying in a scientific breakthrough which could help to control and prevent Alzheimer's.

    Scientists are hailing a landmark British study which has paved the way for a pill that can cure brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's by stopping the death of neurons.

    The Medical Research Council (MRC) team focused on the root cause of many degenerative brain diseases - abnormally shaped proteins that stick together in clumps and fibres.

    When enough misshapen protein builds up in the brain it can trigger a reaction that results in the death of nerve cells.

    Other approaches have sought to stop or limit the accumulation of the abnormal protein, whose structure is folded the wrong way.

    But this research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, targeted the harmful way brain cells react to misfolded proteins.

    Using a drug injected into the stomachs of mice through a mouth tube, they flipped a cellular switch from "off" to "on" to prevent neurons dying.

    Five weeks after treatment one group of mice remained free of symptoms such as memory loss, impaired reflexes and limb dragging.

    They also lived longer than untreated animals with the same brain disease.

    During the study, a neurodegenerative disease caused by abnormal prion proteins was induced in the mice.

    Prion diseases, which include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), are rare in humans but share the same underlying cause - misfolded proteins - as more common conditions such as Alzheimer's.

    Lead scientist Professor Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Toxicology Unit, said: "We were extremely excited when we saw the treatment stop the disease in its tracks and protect brain cells, restoring some normal behaviours and preventing memory loss in the mice."

    The scientists stress human trials are a long way off and point out that the mice suffered serious side effects, including significant weight loss and raised blood sugar.

    But they also believe the research demonstrates in principle the possibility of developing an oral treatment - a pill or swallowed liquid - that can protect the brain from neurodegenerative disease.

    The research is at a very early stage and it could be a decade or more before the medicine is actually developed.

    But experts said the findings were highly significant.

    Wow. Amazing if this can truly be a breakthrough that leads to prevention of (and perhaps treatment or even a cure for?) Alzheimer's. Those who have seen it know what a horrible, devastating disease it is. The only real solace, for those who have to watch this happen, is that at least the Alzheimer's sufferer usually "goes to a happy place," some distant childhood memory or whatever. Small consolation, but at least it's not scared, confused, and terrified all of the time.

    I have to wonder, if this can truly be a breakthrough for Alzheimer's, if there may be some way to work it backwards somehow to address ALS, which is just about the only thing that terrifies me more than Alzheimer's. I have seen that death, and I definitely do not want to go that way.
    It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
    In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
    Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
    Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now