Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Researchers Set Stage for Possible Treatment of
Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
In early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people fail
to learn new games, rules or technologies because cognitive flexibility
March 1, 2013 - Researchers at the University of
Florida and The Johns Hopkins University have developed a line of
genetically altered mice that model the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s
disease. This model may help scientists identify new therapies to
provide relief to patients who are beginning to experience symptoms.
The researchers report their findings in the
current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
“The development of this model could help
scientists identify new ways to enhance brain function in patients in
the early stages of the disease,” said
David Borchelt, UF professor of neuroscience in the Evelyn F. and
William L. McKnight Brain Institute and director of the Santa Fe
HealthCare Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
“Such therapies could preserve brain function
longer and delay the appearance of more severe symptoms that leave
patients unable to care for themselves.”
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people
struggle with and fail to learn new games, rules or technologies because
their cognitive flexibility decreases. The degenerative disease
continues with memory loss and the decline of other brain functions.
The researchers worked with mice that had specially
designed gene fragments derived from bacteria and from humans that
allowed the investigators to control the production of a small peptide.
The peptide, called amyloid beta peptide, is a short chain of amino
acids. Accumulations of this particular peptide in the brain as lesions
called plaques occur early in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
and seem to trigger the early memory problems.
The team regulated the expression of the peptide
using antibiotics — when the animals stopped taking the antibiotic, the
peptide-producing gene turned on and caused the mice to develop the
plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients. After the mice had developed the
Alzheimer pathology, the researchers turned the gene back off and
observed that the mice showed persistent memory problems that resemble
the early stages of the disease.
“This model may be useful to researchers to test
drugs that could help with symptoms of early stage Alzheimer’s disease,”
Borchelt said.This research is funded by the National Institute of
Neurological Disease and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health,
and the SantaFe HealthCare Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center of the
University of Florida.
About the Author
Melissa Blouin is the Director of News and
Publications at the University of Florida Academic Health Center. She
was previously the senior director of academic communications at the
University of Arkansas.
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