Alzheimer’s disease is devastating both for those who suffer from it and for those who love them. It is also expensive. It’s estimated that the current worldwide cost of coping with Alzheimer’s is $818 billion. A cure for Alzheimer’s is not available and current treatments for the disease focus on mitigating symptoms rather than eliminating causes.
Recent research has provided evidence that the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s may be preventable and reversible. Now, new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on a gene therapy treatment that stopped the development of Alzheimer’s disease dead in it’s tracks.
The destruction of neurons that is the root case of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia begins with the formation of plaque deposits in the brain that are built from beta amlyoid peptides. Defective variants of a type of protein called tau protein gather on the beta amyloid deposits. The tau proteins cause inflammation in the brain and destroy surrounding neurons.
Early-stage clinical trials have shown that the antibody aducanumab is effective in destroying the beta amyloid deposits that serve as the gathering place for the defective tau proteins. The new research carried out by a team at Imperial College London describes a gene therapy treatment that prevents the beta amyloid deposits from being formed.
The researchers identified a gene called PGC-1α that interferes with the production of beta amyloid peptides. They directly tested the effect of PGC-1α on the development of Alzheimer’s disease with transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to produce elevated levels of amyloid beta peptides.