Alzheimer's: 'historic' research may lead to cure
Groundbreaking work by British scientists finds drug that stops neurodegenerative diseases killing cells
A SIMPLE pill that could cure Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases is a real possibility, following the development by British scientists of a "drug-like compound" that halts the death of brain cells in mice.
While an effective treatment for humans is still "a long way off", The Independent says, the groundbreaking research "provides a major new pathway for future drug treatments." It may also lead to cures for other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, motor neurone and Huntington's.
Professor Roger Morris, of King's College London, told the Daily Mail: "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."
Alzheimer's affects about 500,000 people in the UK. It has a devastating effect on sufferers by triggering the release of harmful, misshapen proteins in the brain, which eventually cause the nerve cells around them to die. The result is a gradual reduction in brain function.
The study, by a team at the University of Leicester's Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, took a new approach to combating neurodegenerative diseases and the "sticky, mis-folded" proteins they unleash in the brain. Instead of trying to find a drug that clears the brain of these cell-destroying "toxic proteins", they looked at the reason they cause so much damage.
"Research on mice showed that misshapen proteins do not directly kill brain cells," the Mail says. "Instead, cells die because, in a misguided attempt to protect themselves, they stop making new proteins – including some vital for their survival."
The University of Leicester researchers showed it was possible to give mice a drug that "switches protein production back on, and stops brain disease in its tracks", the Mail says. Mice treated with the compound stayed symptom-free, while untreated animals developed memory and movement problems and eventually died.
The compound did cause "severe side-effects" in the mice and scientists warn that a safe treatment for humans is at least a decade away. ·