Is There Another Cause of Alzheimer's Disease?

Posted Oct 30, 2010 by Susan Berg
Scientists doing research at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal have uncovered one of the root causes of Alzheimer's disease.
Inside Alzheimer s.
Inside Alzheimer's.
Photo by Kaz Ehara
This information has raised the hopes of having a drug to slow down or cure or the onset of Alzheimer's disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disorder; as reported in the Montreal Gazette
A neuroscientist named Andrea LeBlanc and other scientists working with her have found that an enzyme in the brain that normally plays a role in inflammation will in certain individuals start Alzheimer's disease process. The enzyme is called Caspase-6. It causes an over-production of amyloid beta plaques that clog up the brains of Alzheimer disease victims thus impairing their memories and cognitive abilities.
LeBlanc thinks that an "estrogen-type" drug might be able to stop Caspase-6. This would effectively treat Alzheimer's disease. Right now, the research is in the early stage, It will take at least 10 years to come up with a potential drug.
"If we could slow the progression of the disease for a few years, we would win a big part of the battle," Leblanc said. "What we want to do is keep people cognitively intact for as long as possible."
Until this time, neuroscientists have focused on the "amyloid theory" as the root cause of Alzheimer's disease. However, Leblanc developed another theory: what if the amyloid plaques were not the cause of the disease, but a symptom of another underlying cause?
She tested her theory by having researchers culture neurons in the laboratory and then deprive them of growth factors and other important nutrients which stresses the brain. What they noticed was that the stressed neurons activated the enzyme, Caspase-6, which then led to an overproduction of the amyloid plaques. Leblanc thinks that the aging process most likely stresses the brains of some people. The researchers confirmed that the brains of people who died of Alzheimer's disease all had very high levels of the enzyme, Caspase-6. In addition, Leblanc found high levels of the Capase-6 in the brains of some older people who did not have a diagnosis Alzheimer's disease, but were showing mild signs of mild cognitive impairment.
At present, there are at least 25 million individuals worldwide who have Alzheimer's disease."Any research that points toward the causes of Alzheimer's is enormously hope-giving, and that's why I (financially) support the research and will continue to support it," she said. "For a long time, Alzheimer's has been such a mystery."
More research is needed but this news does give hope to those who are aging and could develop Alzheimer's disease.