Scientists at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. have found that a specific molecule could slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In their study, the Brichos molecule, which occurs in the body naturally, prevented the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in mice.
Researchers believe that the early stages of Alzheimer’s begin when beta-amyloid proteins in the brain fold improperly, causing them to clump together. These clumps become long threads called fibrils that expand across the brain. The rate of fibril growth eventually outpaces the brain’s processes for eliminating malfunctioning proteins. “Initially the process is really slow, but it becomes a runaway chain reaction,” said study leader Samuel Cohen.
The researchers injected amyloid proteins into the mice’s brains to trigger the development of Alzheimer’s-like degeneration. They then introduced the Brichos molecule into some mice, which coated the surface of amyloid fibrils and prevented them from growing.
The scientists looked for a type of electrical activity in the brain called “gamma waves,” which normally declines as Alzheimer’s progresses. The brains of mice injected with the Brichos molecule showed the same levels of gamma wave activity as a healthy control group.
Unfortunately, it would be difficult to use Brichos as a medication for preventing Alzheimer’s, since the body would absorb it before it could reach the brain. But Cohen stresses that the study’s findings may help to develop better Alzheimer’s treatments: “The big advantage is that we haven’t just come up with a drug and not really understood what it is doing. We’ve come up with a general strategy that could work.”
Do you or a loved one have Alzheimer’s disease? Join the fight for better Alzheimer’s treatments and consider participating in one of Brain Matters’ clinical research studies.