Scientists have created a drug that prevents Alzheimer’s in mice by boosting levels of a protein

First-of-its-kind drug ‘PREVENTS Alzheimer’s in mice bred to develop the disease by boosting levels of a protein that clears away brain plaques and tangles linked to memory loss’

  • Two proteins, amyloid and tau, clump together and smother neurons, causing memory loss and confusion in Alzheimer’s patients 
  • Another protein called VPS35, clears the destructive proteins, but levels of the helpful compound are low in Alzheimer’s patients
  • Researchers used a newly-developed drug to boost levels of VPS35 in the brains of some mice genetically engineered to develop the age-related disease
  • Treated mice had less tau and amyloid beta proteins and performed better on tests of memory and learning 

Scientists believe they may have created the first drug that prevents Alzheimer’s disease.

It works by boosting levels of a protein that clears the brain of rogue proteins that cause memory loss and confusion.

Research conducted on mice engineered to develop the age-related disease showed that rodents had no symptoms after being injected with the compound. 

The team, from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Pennsylvania, says the findings shed fresh light on the brain disease provides hope that the medicine could slow or even reverse dementia in humans. 

A new study from Temple University in Pennsylvania has found that boosting levels of a protein in mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s cleared proteins that smother neurons  (file image) 

An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020 and is expected to hit 13.8 million by 2050.

Sufferers experience a decline in cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities and there is no cure. 

Those who have the disease have a build-up of two proteins, amyloid beta and tau, in the brain that form clumps, which smother and destroy neurons – leading to loss of memory and confusion. 

However, previous research has found that the protein VPS35 actively sweeps out proteins that tangle and destroy neurons.

Alzheimer’s patients have reduced levels of this protein so the team wondered a treatment designed to ramp up production of the helpful compound could in turn help slow down the disease. 

For the new study, published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration, researchers treated mice genetically engineered  to develop Alzheimer’s with the drug from a young age.  

Beginning before the scientists would expect signs of the disease to show, they gave both treated and untreated mice memory and learning tests.

Compared to untreated mice, the treated rodents did much better, and behaved just like normal mice in the wild, even after the untreated group began to decline. 

Researchers analyzed the mice’s neurons and found much less tau and amyloid beta proteins that fuel the disease. 

Results showed that not only were levels of VPS35 restored but synapses – or connections in the brain – were fully functional. 

‘Relative to other therapies under development for Alzheimer’s disease…[this is] inexpensive, and some of these drugs have already been approved for the treatment of other diseases,’ Dr Domenico Praticò, director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. 

‘Additionally, these drugs do not block an enzyme or a receptor but target a cellular mechanism, which means that there is much lower potential for side effects.’

Before the team plans to try the drug human patients, it wants to investigate the effects of older mice who already have Alzheimer’s.

‘Because our most recent investigation was a preventative study, we want to know now whether this therapy could also work as a treatment for patients already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,’ Dr Praticò said.