A ground-breaking study showed amyloid clumps in the brain can be dissolved using a water-soluble chemical called 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazinepropanesulphonic acid (EPPS). Amyloid buildups are Alzheimer's first and foremost trademark. Once broken down, dissolved clumps can be easily cleared.
The encouraging results pave the way for future treatment of a currently incurable disease. The study provides the medical community a potential pre-diagnosis Alzheimer's therapy way before clinical symptoms manifest.
Researchers from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology added the small-molecule to the drinking water of mice engineered to mimic the Alzheimer's symptoms. Findings showed the protein deposits or amyloid clusters in the mice's brains were successfully dissolved. The mice subsequently showed enhancements in learning and memory.
"I do not believe EPPS or other amyloid clearing drug candidates will make Alzheimer patients recover their damaged brains," said lead researcher YoungSoo Kim.
But the team strongly believes that EPPS can prevent the neurodegeneration and save patients from the disease-related deaths. The findings support the theory that amyloid buildup is Alzheimer's pathological perpetrator.
Kim added that none of the mice specimen used in the study showed negative side effects from the EPPS chemical. EPPS shares similarities with taurine, a type of amino acid found in energy drinks such as Red Bull.
Orally ingested EPPS proved non-toxic. Unlike other chemicals, EPPS penetrated the so-called "blood-brain barrier", a filtering mechanism which prevents harmful substances from entering the brain.
Amyloid buildup is the first biological change found in Alzheimer's patients. The clumps then injure nerve cells that set off a chain of events eventually ending with an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis. Amyloid clumps are found in the autopsied brains of Alzheimer's patients but the formation of clumps precedes memory loss and other symptoms associated with the disease.
"If we could catch Alzheimer's before this occurred, such an amyloid-removing drug might stop it in its tracks," said neuroscientist Dr. Frances Edwards from the University College London. While further tests are needed, a drug would be remarkable in the disease prediction among people with inherited forms of the illness.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 8.
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