Macquarie University researchers have managed to produce a new treatment that successfully reversed the effects of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease in mice with advanced dementia. The new find could have life-altering consequences for those suffering from the illness.
The discovery was made by brothers Lars and Arne Ittner who had been studying dementia for a decade now. "Two months after we treated the mice at very old ages, these mice suddenly behaved like their normal siblings. We were really stoked," said Professor Lars Ittner.
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating condition that has been seeing an increase in the last few years, added Lars. The disease will eventually kill its victims and that is why the brothers felt it was so important to do something about it.
Their new treatment is a much-needed step forward. This is because it does not only thwart memory loss, it also reverses it. If this is also successful in human trials, people suffering from dementia could hopefully get their memories back.
"There is no comparable therapy out there and no other gene therapy either," added Lars. How does this new treatment work?
It reconstitutes the lost enzymatic memory activity by targeting the enzyme p38gamma. This process can modify a protein that prevents the development of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
The research, however, went a step further, finding that the natural protective effects of p38gamma could be used to actually improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease even at stages with severe cognitive decline.
“The naturally protective enzymatic activity in the brain is unfortunately lost further one progresses down the Alzheimer’s disease track – so the more memory you lose, the more you also lose this natural protective effect," Professor Ittner explained.
The researcher added that the new discovery brings some much-needed knowledge about the human brain. He described the brain as a "black box" and said his work reveals an "unprecedented" understanding of how this crucial human organ functions.
It goes without saying that by better understanding the brain, researchers are empowered to create treatments that can target its many conditions. Ittner's approach is the first gene therapy-based approach in the world for advanced Alzheimer’s disease.