New research from Yale University scientists suggests a “drinkable cocktail of designer molecules” has restored memories in mice engineered to have a condition like Alzheimer’s disease.
Their findings, recently published in the journal Cell Reports, involved screening tens of thousands of compounds to understand which molecules interfere with an important first step of the disease. This step includes “the binding of amyloid beta peptides to prion proteins” in the brain and “triggers a cascade of devastating events in the progression of Alzheimer’s — accumulation of plaques, a destructive immune system response, and damage to synapses,” according to a university article.
Through their screening of 2,560 known drug and 10,130 diverse small molecules, the scientists sought to find molecules that may have a “therapeutic effect on this network,” said senior author Stephen Strittmatter, who is also director of the Yale Alzheimer Disease Research Center.
The “drinkable cocktail of designer molecules” was identified as “a polymeric degradant of an antibiotic.” Essentially, that means the compound involves an old antibiotic that had to be optimized as a polymer, or a structure of molecules made up of similar units, to become active.
When the scientists gave the mice the compound, synapses in their brains were repaired and they recovered lost memory.
The same compound also delivered positive effects when administered by Dartmouth University scientists to cells engineered to mimic the neurological condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Will this work in humans with Alzheimer’s disease? We’ll need more research. The next step is to ensure the compounds aren’t dangerous for future clinical trials.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, the death rate from the disease has risen by 55 percent in recent decades, according to the CDC. And in Georgia, the number of deaths from Alzheimer's has increased by 201 percent since 2000, according to Georgia Health News.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revealed that the country’s burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will double by the year 2060.
In 2014, 5 million Americans — or 1.6 percent of the population — felt the burden of the diseases. The figure is expected to grow to 13.9 million, equating to nearly 3.3 percent of the projected population in 2060.
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