American scientists have discovered a potential new drug that could help fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Neuroscientists from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine discovered that a skin cancer drug called bexarotene appears to reverse cognitive and memory deficits associated with Alzheimer’s when tested on lab mice.
The significant discovery, although only in its early stages, found that the drug cleared a naturally occurring protein in the brain called amyloid, which is closely linked to Alzheimer’s progression.
The amyloid proteins are naturally broken down and eliminated in healthy brains. However in Alzheimer's disease, these proteins accumulate into hard amyloid plaques and contribute towards the degradation of the brain’s nerve cells, causing the onset of dementia.
Researchers gave a selection of mice the cancer drug and discovered that each mouse had improved memory and behavior. What impressed scientists the most was the speed of the positive mental effects from the drug.
"This is a particularly exciting and rewarding study because of the new science we have discovered and the potential promise of a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease," study author, professor Gary Landreth told the Press Association.
However, while professor Landreth felt positive about these findings, he stressed that the study was in its early stages and had only been tested on mice.
"Our next objective is to ascertain if it acts similarly in humans," professor Landreth added.
Dr. Simon Ridley from Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “While this early study may look promising, success in mice unfortunately does not always guarantee success in people.
"We would need to see the results of clinical trials before we could know whether bexarotene could prove beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s - and it would also be important to weigh up the risks of any potential side effects.
"It may be that these treatments could be more effective if given early, meaning early detection of the disease will be crucial.
"If we can fully understand the causes of the disease, we stand a better chance of finding a treatment that could benefit people.”
In the UK alone, Alzheimer’s disease affects over 820,000 people.
Recently Alzheimer's hit the headlines after scientists discovered the disease ‘jumps’ from one brain neuron to another much like an infection.
Researchers also discovered that decaffeinated coffee helps preserves memory function linked to Alzheimer’s and last year, a medical breakthrough was made when scientists designed a potent vaccine that could help prevent Alzheimer’s developing.
A study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that decaffeinated coffee improves the brain's energy metabolism - linked to cognitive decline - in those with Type 2 diabetes. "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, ageing, and/ or neurodegenerative disorders," said lead researcher, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinett.
Everyday games, puzzles and tasks were able to postpone decline in cognitive function and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, in dementia patients, for at least a year, according to research from the University of Erlangen in Germany, published in the journals BMC Medicine.
Eating fewer calories could help boost memory and cognitive function, according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Researchers hope to mimic the same effect with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer's sufferers as well as those suffering from injury-related memory loss.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and School of Medicine found that people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's. Reseracher Cyrus Raji said: "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."
Working out using virtual games such as the Wii Fit could slow cognitive decline in the over 50s, researchers from Union College in the US found. Participants aged between 58 and 99 were given a 3D exercise game to play. Compared to the control group who were asked to use a regular exercise bike, the 'cybercycle' group had a 23% decrease in advancement of mild cognitive impairment and showed improved 'executive function'.
A study in The Lancet Neurology suggest that 3m cases of Alzheimer's across the world could be prevented in seven simple ways. The report recommends quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and diabetes risk factors as well as managing depression and obesity to help combat the disease.