NEW YORK, July 24 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they are looking at a new approach to treating Alzheimer's disease with a protein thought to extend lifespan in laboratory animals.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that in mice prone to developing Alzheimer's, activating a protein called sirtuin suppressed the disease and destroying the protein made the disease much worse, The New York Times reported.
The finding raises the hope that Alzheimer's, and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's, could be treated with drugs that activate sirtuin, researchers say.
"We think it is a scientifically compelling story that ties the sirtuins to the biology of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Dennis J. Selkoe, an Alzheimer's expert at Harvard Medical School who was not a part of the study.
Drugs that activate sirtuin already exist, including resveratrol, a minor ingredient of red wine and other foods.
One drug company, Sirtris, is in preclinical trials with sirtuin-activating drugs.
"We think it has very significant potential in neurodegenerative diseases," Sirtris Chief Executive Officer George P. Vlasuk said.