Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are We Closer to a Cure?

Alzheimer's is a disease that affects millions in the US and has no real cure. It is devastating to watch your loved ones slowly forgot the good times you shared. Scientists continue to attack Alzheimer's from every angle hoping to cure a disease that is too small to surgically remove and because of its location in the brain, protected from easy access by drugs that are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier.

However, scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, may be a step closer to finding a feasible cure. Chakrabarty, et al. published their findings in the FASEB Journal this month.

What they discovered, was that when the brain's immune cells (microglia) are activated by the interleukin-6 protein (IL-6), they actually remove plaques instead of causing them or making them worse. This was a surprise, because they had started the study anticipating that activation of these cells would actually increase inflammation, not lead to the removal of plaques. Like many of the great findings in science, this one was another serendipitous discovery.

This approach to curing Alzheimer's may be better than others because the body uses its own defense mechanisms to clear out beta amyloid plaques (via IL-6) instead of non-specific drugs with harmful and usually unknown side effects.

While the research was performed in a model of Alzheimer's disease established in mice, the researchers feel like this is a close to simulating the human response as possible.

Maybe this will progress to clinical trials down the road...

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