A pill or potion that dissolves away one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain could be in sight after groundbreaking animal studies.
Scientists who added the molecule to the drinking water of affected mice found that harmful protein fragment deposits in their brains were broken down. The animals also showed improvements in memory and learning.
Experts say much more work needs to be carried out before the drug, EPPS, can be tested on human patients. But the new approach is said to look promising, especially for people at risk from inherited forms of the disease.
The drug is believed to make the amyloid beta “plaques” that build up in the brains of patients soluble, so they can be cleared away. However, it may only be effective before symptoms appear, highlighting the importance of finding ways to diagnose cases earlier.
Amyloid accumulation is believed to occur first, leading on to other changes such as the formation of “tangles” of tau protein within nerve cells that trigger the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s.
Dr Frances Edwards, a reader in neurophysiology at University College London, pointed out that most patients are only diagnosed after the appearance of tau tangles and “considerable loss of brain tissue”.