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article imageNow the good news: genetically altered cells relieve Alzheimer’s in mice

By Paul Wallis     Aug 31, 2007 in Health
One of the most debilitating human diseases has just had a kick in the teeth from a new therapy. Alzheimer’s involves formation of plaques in the brain which interferes with memory and thinking.
Its formation is “comparable with the build up of cholesterol in coronary arteries.”
Alzheimer’s affects many millions of people, and has so far been difficult to treat at all, let alone effectively. The massive number of cases which has been sweeping the world in recent decades has been crippling health care facilities and depriving people of their minds and dignity in old age.
Science Daily explains: The plaque is made of a goo-like protein called amyloid-beta. Mice were given an induced and accelerated form of Alzheimer’s Disease. Altered genes were delivered by injection to the mice using their own skin cells in the form of fibroblasts, which “do not form tumors, or move from the implantation site”, according to researchers.
The genetic material delivered to the brain produces an enzyme which breaks up the protein. Researchers say that the enzyme also prevents the progression of the disease by removing the toxic protein which causes the disease’s spread. This approach to preventing progression of a disease is itself a particularly significant development, because the progressive diseases are among the world's most difficult to treat.
The viability of the Alzheimer's treatment for humans seems to be more a matter of scale and the amount of tissue affected, and efficiency in methods of delivery of the altered genes, or the enzyme itself. Injection wouldn’t necessarily be the best way to deliver the genes to multiple sites in a human brain.
Invasive surgery usually isn’t the first choice of surgeons, because it can over-stress the patients. Generally speaking, the less invasive the treatment, the better. Several methods of delivery are being considered which would not involve actual injections into the brain, including spinal fluid and direct delivery of the enzyme into the brain in capsule form, using the brain's own blood circulation system.
More about Alzheimer, Gene therapy, Murine test
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