Greek scientists put a stop in the development of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease could be stopped in its tracks with an injection into the memory centres of the brain to boost a gene which clears out destructive sticky plaques, scientists believe.
Four years ago, researchers discovered that a protein called PGC1 -alpha was vital for preventing the build-up of amyloid beta plaques, but people with Alzheimer’s disease do not produce sufficient amounts.
Now scientists have shown it is possible to deliver a gene which produces the plaque-busting protein directly into the brain.
The team used a type of modified virus to deliver a gene to brain cells. The harmless virus, which has been edited to include the gene, infects brain cells and rewrites there genetic code to produce more of the plaque-fighting protein. Injections were given in the hippocampus and cortex of the brain, which are responsible for memory formation and orientation and are the first to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers, led by Professor Nicholas Mazarakis and Dr Magdalena Sastre from the School of Medicine, Imperial College London, published the research in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 2 more Greek researchers participated in the team, Lucia Katsouri and Ioanna Eleftheriadou.
Professor Nicholas Mazarakis, co-author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial added: “Scientists harness the way lentivirus infects cells to produce a modified version of the virus, that delivers genes into specific cells.
“It is being used in experiments to treat a range of conditions from arthritis to cancer. We have previously successfully used the lentivirus vector in clinical trials to deliver genes into the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients.”
The team believes that injections of the gene would be most beneficial in the early stages of the disease, when the first symptoms appear.The research, which was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the European Research Council, was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.