Possible new Alzheimer's therapy studied

Oct. 7, 2009 at 2:44 PM
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DALLAS, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have found the harmful effects of the beta-amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's disease might be mitigated with another brain protein.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center scientists said their findings from an animal study suggest a new therapy tactic against Alzheimer's.

Beta-amyloid is found in the brain and, when functioning properly, suppresses nerve activity involved with memory and learning, thereby keeping nerve cells from becoming "overexcited" when they receive stimulating signals from neighboring cells. People with Alzheimer's disease, however, accumulate too much beta-amyloid, resulting in nerve cells become less responsive.

But the scientists found applying another brain protein, called Reelin, to brain slices from mice prevents excess beta-amyloid from completely silencing nerves.

"If we can identify a mechanism to keep the nerve cells functioning strongly, that might provide a way to fight Alzheimer's disease," said Professor Joachim Herz, the study's senior author.

The research is detailed in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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