Australian scientists made a breakthrough in the race to treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease. They were able to do a world’s first gene therapy to reverse the memory loss connected with advanced Alzheimer’s in mice.
Alzheimer’s can be a devastating condition on anyone affected. It is the most common cause of dementia, which includes memory loss and other brain-related declined functions such as thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia has become the second leading cause of death among Australians with more and more older Australian population diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The treatment is said to be connected with a natural protective enzyme in the brain called, p38gamma and this was directly working against the effects of memory loss when activated. According to the researchers, this discovery will not only be affecting Alzheimer’s but also, several other conditions that are connected with dementia such as, frontotemporal dementia. Unlike Alzheimer’s this condition is common in the younger population who are in their 40s-60s.
Main researchers in the study are two brothers Lars and Arne Ittner from the Macquarie University, who have been studying and researching on dementia treatments for more than a decade. And their breakthrough was the outcome of modern gene therapy on activating the protective enzyme p38gamma.
The study has seen not only the memory loss halted but also its complete reversal, which they say is a much better outcome than their hypothesis! According to Prof. Lars Ittner, “They actually recovered their memory function and their ability to learn returned. So, two months after we treated the mice at very old ages, these mice suddenly behaved like their normal siblings. We were really stoked. There is no comparable therapy out there and no other gene therapy either.”
When they used gene therapy to activate p38gamma enzyme, their hope was to, ‘restore the lost enzymatic memory activity and make it more efficient’. Because, “The naturally protective enzymatic activity in the brain is unfortunately lost the further you progress down the Alzheimer’s disease track – so the more memory you lose, the more you also lose this natural protective effect.”
But surprisingly, when they activated the enzyme, it modified a protein which could prevent developing Alzheimer’s symptoms even at advanced stages of the disease, this could bring the memory back! Usually advanced stages of Alzheimer’s display a great decline in cognitive functions like memory loss.
Novel Gene technology has given scientists a new window to model Alzheimer’s and dementia experiments in late stages even with the evident loss of great cognitive functions which was difficult to research on before.
According to the researchers, clinical trials will start in the near future and they hope the treatment to be commercially ready within the next 5-10 years time.
The findings will be published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica in September.