ALZHEIMER'S CURE COMES STEP CLOSER; Irish & US Scientists in Breakthrough
Byline: BY SENAN HOGAN AND JOHN VON RADOWITZ
A LANDMARK discovery about the way Alzheimer's triggers memory loss could pave the way for a possible cure for the disease, it emerged yesterday.
Researchers conducted experiments using brain material from dead patients to show how a tiny protein building block disrupts communication between nerve cells.
The findings from Irish and US scientists provide the starting block for developing more effective drugs for the devastating disease, which affects more than 40,000 people in Ireland.
Professor Dominic Walsh from University College of Dublin's Conway Institute said: "The onset of the disease is insidious with the earliest symptoms often manifested as subtle and intermittent deficits of episodic memory.
"Our findings support the growing theory that Alzheimer's disease memory deficits may result from loss of dendritic spines and that this process is mediated by amyloid-beta protein." Scientists know Alzheimer's is known to be associated with deposits of a protein called amyloid-beta that build up in the brain.
But precisely how the protein is linked to the disease and its symptoms of progressive memory loss and mental confusion is still a mystery.
The new research involved extracting amyloid-beta material from dead Alzheimer's patients and injecting it into the brains of mice and rats.
Through a series of experiments, the scientists homed in an amyloid-beta subunit consisting of two molecules bonded together. …