A “surprise discovery” has allowed scientists to block Alzheimer's disease, The Independent reported. The newspaper said that researchers developing drugs to treat the brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) “have unexpectedly blocked the onset of Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia”.
However, it is not correct to say that researchers have been able to “block” the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The study in question carried out laboratory and animal experiments to investigate the binding between two types of protein. One of the proteins investigated (called the amyloid beta protein) builds up in Alzheimer’s disease. An abnormal form of the other protein (called the prion protein) causes CJD. Scientists 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.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease and is caused by the death of nerve cells in certain areas of the brain. What triggers the death of nerve cells in this disease is still not fully understood, and blocking the effects of the amyloid protein in this way may not be sufficient to stop nerve cells dying. In fact other studies have shown that the amyloid protein does not the cause the condition, but is only another symptom.
Surprise discovery allows scientists to block Alzheimer's. The Independent, June 8 2011
CJD drugs could help Alzheimer's patients. The Daily Telegraph, June 8 2011
Mad cow drugs could help beat Alzheimer's. Daily Mail, June 8 2011
Freir DB, Nicoll AJ, Klyubin I et al. Interaction between prion protein and toxic amyloid β assemblies can be therapeutically targeted at multiple sites. Nature Communications, June 7 2011
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