Perhaps the most painful and tragic part about being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, is knowing that you can only manage certain symptoms. A cure hasn’t been developed just yet and although research continues to evolve, millions of individuals and their loved ones are currently suffering. With that being said, there’s been an important discovery, one that could potentially result in a cure.
Have Researchers Found the Missing Link?
Can you imagine, a cure for Alzheimer’s, a true glimmer of hope? Researchers at Stanford University may have found the missing link, leaving many enthusiastic and hopeful individuals wondering what’s next. What is that they discovered and how it unique in comparison to past study results? Could this really be the clue that researchers have been aiming to find?
Scientists at Stanford University believe that Alzheimer’s may potentially be prevented and treated by boosting one’s own immune response. It’s long been known that Alzheimer’s causes the brain to degenerate, as plaques and tangles collect. Based on recent research, it appears that cells which are supposed to clear the brain of viruses, deposits, and bacteria, essentially stop working.
In turn, nerve cells die and functioning decreases. To be more specific, these critical nerves are known as microglia, which generally function well amongst younger individuals. It’s believed that with age, a protein known as EP2 interferes and blocks their ability to properly function and maintain brain health.
While studying mice, researchers were able to block EP2, reversing memory loss and other Alzheimer’s-related features. Since Alzheimer’s claims the lives of approximately 600,000 people each year, this is an incredible step in the right direction.
A little more on microglial cells…
To better understand these new and exciting findings, we must focus on microglial cells and their role in the brain. Making up approximately 10 to 15 percent of all the cells in your brain, they are the optimal defence system. When they recognize an invader, they destroy and eliminate it.
They can also target dead cells and debris, which often affect living cells. This includes clusters of amyloid-beta, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s these gummy deposits which result in symptoms such as memory loss. If these cells stop working, inflammation increases, along with a build up of amyloid-beta.
Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, this recent study found that while observing young mice, microglia maintained control over these sticky and harmful plaques. On the other hand, within older mice, it was apparent that EP2 was present, reducing the functionality of microglia. In turn, they weren’t able to release the enzymes needed to target and destroy plaques.
What’s even more interesting, is that mice who were genetically engineered not to have the protein EP2, did not develop Alzheimer’s. Even when these mice were injected with amyloid-beta, Alzheimer’s did not occur. This is because the microglia were functioning effectively, naturally getting rid of the protein.
If you thought that this news couldn’t get any more exciting, researchers found that mice who already had Alzheimer’s, could essentially be ‘cured.’ When EP2 was blocked, memory decline was reversed. The next step will be producing a compound which essentially blocks EP2, preventing it from causing severe damage. Although more research needs to be conducted, we are closer than ever before – a cure may be within our reach.
For the millions of individuals and their loved ones who are currently affected by this disease, continue to follow this advancing research as it unfolds. The hope is that one day, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis will not be so detrimental – with accurate research and effective interventions, Alzheimer’s may even become a rare phenomena in the future.