Cambridge scientists raise prospect of new generation of treatments after finding technique to limit development of biggest cause of dementia
Scientists have found a method which could potentially stop the growth of Alzheimer’s disease in its tracks, raising the prospect of a wave of new treatments for the condition.
A team at Cambridge University, working with partners in Sweden and Estonia, has identified a molecule which can block the progress of Alzheimer’s at a crucial stage in its development.
Not only is it the first time that experts have identified a means of breaking the cycle leading to the development of Alzheimer’s but they believe the technique could be used to identify other molecules as future treatments to curb the growth of the condition.
Charities hailed it as an “exciting” discovery.
More than 520,000 people in the UK are estimated to be living with Alzheimer’s, by far the most common cause of dementia.
Dementia-related conditions are already the biggest cause of death among women in Britain and only narrowly outranked by heart disease and cancer for men.
Alzheimer’s develops when proteins in the brain malfunction and then stick together into fibres. They in turn eventually form clusters called oligomers which are toxic to nerve cells.
The second stage of that process is believed to set off a chain reaction which multiplies the number of clusters, hastening the development of the most devastating effects.
Experts at the Centre for Misfolding Diseases in Cambridge’s Chemistry Department have identified that natural proteins called Brichos, can stick to the fibres preventing them merging with others and forming the damaging clusters, therefore limiting the effects.
They believe the method used could help them identify other so-called “chaperone molecules” which could attach themselves in a similar way raising the prospect of a new generation of treatments.
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