Brain cell regeneration may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Brain cell regeneration may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most widespread degenerative neurological disorder in the world. Over five million Americans live with it, and one in three senior citizens will die with the disease or a similar form of dementia. While memory loss is a common symptom of Alzheimer's, other behavioral manifestations—depression, loss of inhibition, delusions, agitation, anxiety, and aggression—can be even more challenging for victims and their families to live with.

Now Prof. Daniel Offen and Dr. Adi Shruster of Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine have discovered that by reestablishing a population of new cells in the part of the brain associated with behavior, some symptoms of Alzheimer's disease significantly decreased or were reversed altogether.

The research, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, was conducted on mouse models; it provides a promising target for Alzheimer's symptoms in human beings as well.

"Until 15 years ago, the common belief was that you were born with a finite number of neurons. You would lose them as you aged or as the result of injury or disease," said Prof. Offen, who also serves as Chief Scientific Officer at BrainStorm, a biotech company at the forefront of innovative . "We now know that can be used to regenerate areas of the brain."

Speeding up recovery

After introducing stem cells in in the laboratory and seeing promising results, Prof. Offen leveraged the study to mice with Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms. The gene (Wnt3a) was introduced in the part of the mouse brain that controls behavior, specifically fear and anxiety, in the hope that it would contribute to the formation of genes that produce new brain cells.

According to Prof. Offen, untreated Alzheimer's mice would run heedlessly into an unfamiliar and dangerous area of their habitats instead of assessing potential threats, as healthy mice do. Once treated with the gene that increased new neuron population, however, the mice reverted to assessing their new surroundings first, as usual.

"Normal mice will recognize the danger and avoid it. Mice with the disease, just like human patients, lose their sense of space and reality," said Prof. Offen. "We first succeeded in showing that new neuronal cells were produced in the areas injected with the gene. Then we succeeded in showing diminished symptoms as a result of this neuron repopulation."

"The loss of inhibition is a cause of great embarrassment for most patients and relatives of patients with Alzheimer's," said Prof. Offen. "Often, patients take off their pants in public, having no sense of their surroundings. We saw parallel behavior in animal models with Alzheimer's."

Next: Memory

After concluding that increased stem cell production in a certain area of the brain had a positive effect on behavioral deficits of Alzheimer's, Prof. Offen has moved to research into the area of the that controls memory. He and his team are currently exploring it in the laboratory and are confident that the results of the new study will be similar.

"Although there are many questions to answer before this research produces practical therapies, we are very optimistic about the results and feel this is a promising direction for Alzheimer's research," said Prof. Offen.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using bone marrow to protect the brain

Sep 20, 2011

The ability to produce neuroprotectors, proteins that protect the human brain against neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and ALS, is the holy grail of brain research. A technology developed at Tel Aviv University ...

Innovative method to treat Alzheimer's in mice

Apr 01, 2013

Researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute report that they successfully used a virus vector to restore the expression of a brain protein and improve cognitive functions, in a mouse model of Alzheimer's ...

Mechanism in Alzheimer's-related memory loss identified

Jan 19, 2014

Cleveland Clinic researchers have identified a protein in the brain that plays a critical role in the memory loss seen in Alzheimer's patients, according to a study to be published in the journal Nature Neuroscience and po ...

Recommended for you

Researchers identify potential biomarker for AD

Jul 28, 2014

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) report variants in a new gene, PLXNA4, which may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD). The discovery of this novel genetic association may lead ...

Study links enzyme to Alzheimer's disease

Jul 21, 2014

Unclogging the body's protein disposal system may improve memory in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), according to a study from scientists at Kyungpook National University in Korea published in The Jo ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JVK
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2014
Pheromones and the luteinizing hormone for inducing proliferation of neural stem cells and neurogenesis

http://www.freshp...8009.php

The present invention provides a method of increasing neural stem cell numbers or neurogenesis by using a pheromone, a luteinizing hormone (LH) and/or a human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). The method can be practiced in vivo to obtain more neural stem cells in situ, which can in turn produce more neurons or glial cells to compensate for lost or dysfunctional neural cells. The method can also be practiced in vitro to produce a large number of neural stem cells in culture. The cultured stem cells can be used, for example, for transplantation treatment of patients or animals suffering from or suspected of having neurodegenerative diseases or conditions.