Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research, demonstrating what they describe as the first gene therapy-based approach to treating advanced forms of the disease .
Through experiments in mice, they have been able to show how activating a key enzyme in the brain can prevent and even reverse the type of memory loss associated with advanced forms of Alzheimer’s.
The research has been conducted at Macquarie University, where researchers Lars and Arne Ittner were investigating the role of a key enzyme in the brain called p38gamma . Through previous research, the researchers, who are brothers, had shown that by activating this enzyme in mice with advanced dementia, they could modify a protein that prevents the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
From this, the scientists conducted experiments in mice with advanced Alzheimer’s disease to see not only how cognitive decline could be slowed, but also how the function of this protective enzyme could be restored to normal levels for even greater benefit .
The researchers found that by introducing genetic material, they were able to activate the enzyme p38gamma in a way that not only stopped the memory decline in the mice, but actively improved their memory despite the advanced nature of their disease .
Work is now underway to determine the best path to clinical trials and eventually market this new treatment within five to ten years . And the potential of the technique may not end with Alzheimer’s disease, and the team hopes it may prove useful in treating other dementia-related diseases, such as fronto-temporal dementia, which generally affects younger people in their 40s and 40s. 65 years.
A study detailing the discovery will be published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica in September.