Scientists battling Alzheimer’s are developing a new way of fighting the condition. Scientists in the UK and Sweden are creating new drugs that can target the toxic particles that they believe are a trigger for the brain disease. The research is being hailed as a world first. The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the condition affects roughly 5.7 million Americans. Over time, symptoms like memory loss and confusion begin to appear and progressively get worse as the disease progresses. By the time the symptoms appear, considerable damage to the brain has already been done.
In Alzheimer’s, a brain protein known as amyloid beta forms clumps that appear to be toxic to surrounding brain cells. These excessive amounts of amyloid beta is thought to drive the progression of the disease. A healthy brain gets rid of any excessive amounts of these proteins through its internal quality control system.
Until now, the treatments available were only able to manage Alzheimer’s symptoms, not stop or reverse the disease. Many experts assert that the reason so many previous drugs have failed is that they’ve been targeting the wrong thing.
The research team behind the new study believes they’ve developed a technique to screen for compounds that can slow down the formulation of these clumps. Their method is called the Structure-Kinetic Activity-Relationship (SKAR). Senior study author Michele Vendruscolo, a molecular chemist at the University of Cambridge in the UK, said of the development, “This is a game changer.”
Being able to identify compounds that will be effective at reducing the amount of these proteins is just the beginning. The team has co-founded a biotech company, called Wren Therapeutics, to help them develop these drugs. Vendruscolo said they’d like to begin testing in humans within the next two years.