[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 1 Issue 12, July 2011].
An unexpected discovery has allowed scientists to block Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Independent. Researchers developing drugs to treat Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) found that they might also be able to block certain processes involved in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Laboratory and animal experiments investigating the binding of two types of protein (amyloid beta protein which builds up in Alzheimer’s Disease and the prion protein which causes CJD) found that blocking the binding of the proteins stopped the amyloid protein from affecting nerve signals in mouse brain samples and in the brains of live rats.
The researchers found that two anti-prion antibodies, namely ICSM-18 and ICSM-35, (both previously tested in human prion disease) could block the binding of amyloid beta and prion protein in the laboratory. These antibodies also stopped amyloid beta from having an effect on neurone signalling (“long-term potentiation”) in mouse brain slices. ICSM-18 also stopped the effect of amyloid beta on long-term potentiation in live rats.
This study suggests it may be worth testing antibodies that target prion proteins in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. Testing in animals will be needed before human testing is attempted.
Note: Although experimental models in the laboratory and animal models of CJD and Alzheimer’s Disease are useful research tools, these models are not always precisely identical to the human disease, and treatments do not always have the same effect when they are tested in humans.
Other commentators point out that simply blocking the effects of amyloid beta on long-term potentiation may not be sufficient to stop these from neurones dying and, therefore, may not prevent Alzheimer’s Disease altogether.
CJD protein sheds light on Alzheimer’s. London: NHS Choices, June 8th 2011.
Freir, DB. Nicoll, AJ. Klyubin, I. [et al] (2011). Interaction between prion protein and toxic amyloid β assemblies can be therapeutically targeted at multiple sites. Nature Communications, June 7th 2011.