New target for Alzheimer's disease treatment

March 18, 2013
New target for Alzheimer’s disease treatment

Researchers have found new evidence that insulating cells, the cells that protect our nerves, can be made and added to the central nervous system throughout our lifetime.

Chief investigator on the paper, Menzies Research Institute Tasmania's Dr Kaylene Young, says there is now evidence that these cells may not be the passive by-standers to that we once thought.

"Previously it was thought that most insulating cells in an were born before reaching adulthood," Dr Young said.

"This research shows that new insulating cells are made from an immature cell type found in our brains, called oligodendrocyte (OPCs).

"In fact, new insulation is added to every day, which changes the way the circuits function.

"This process is likely to be very important for learning, memory, vision and co-ordination."

"This finding may have important implications for sufferers of Alzheimer's Disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. There are over 321,600 Australians living with dementia and without a , the number of people with dementia is expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050. (Alzheimer's Australia)

In Alzheimer's Disease (AD) many nerve cells die. This causes patients with AD to progressively lose their ability to think clearly and remember things, and they can also experience problems with movement and co-ordination.

A single insulating cell in the brain supports the health and function of many nerve cells.

We know from diseases like multiple sclerosis that losing insulation makes nerve cells extremely vulnerable to damage and death.

This may also be true for AD, and there is an increasing amount of evidence that supports the idea that insulating cells are damaged before nerve cells and could contribute directly to nerve cell loss.

By studying from patients with AD, researchers previously found that the amount of insulation that is damaged matched the level of the patient's dementia. The more damaged the insulation, the worse the person's memory problems.

Dr Young's research team are now investigating ways to hijack the natural ability of OPCs to make new insulating cells, and repair the insulation damage that is seen in the brains of AD patients.

"Stimulating OPCs in the brain is an appealing possibility since they are found throughout all brain regions, meaning that they are already where they need to be to make new insulating cells!

"We expect that increasing brain insulation, to re-wrap the nerve cells, will prevent more nerve cells from dying. Protecting would prevent the rapid mental deterioration seen in people after they are diagnosed with AD," Dr Young said.

This work was published this month, in the international journal, Neuron and involved collaboration with researchers in the United Kingdom and Japan.

Explore further: New hope for dementia sufferers

Related Stories

New hope for dementia sufferers

February 8, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Research that aims to rid dementia sufferers' brains of toxins could lead to a new treatment that reverses the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the future.

Hopes for reversing age-associated effects in MS patients

January 6, 2012
New research highlights the possibility of reversing ageing in the central nervous system for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The study is published today, 06 January, in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Recommended for you

Could olfactory loss point to Alzheimer's disease?

August 16, 2017
By the time you start losing your memory, it's almost too late. That's because the damage to your brain associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) may already have been going on for as long as twenty years. Which is why there ...

New Machine Learning program shows promise for early Alzheimer's diagnosis

August 15, 2017
A new machine learning program developed by researchers at Case Western Reserve University appears to outperform other methods for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease before symptoms begin to interfere with every day living, initial ...

Brain scan study adds to evidence that lower brain serotonin levels are linked to dementia

August 14, 2017
In a study looking at brain scans of people with mild loss of thought and memory ability, Johns Hopkins researchers report evidence of lower levels of the serotonin transporter—a natural brain chemical that regulates mood, ...

Alzheimer's risk linked to energy shortage in brain's immune cells

August 14, 2017
People with specific mutations in the gene TREM2 are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who carry more common variants of the gene. But until now, scientists had no explanation for the link.

Scientists reveal role for lysosome transport in Alzheimer's disease progression

August 7, 2017
Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine have discovered that defects in the transport of lysosomes within neurons promote the buildup of protein aggregates in the brains of mice with Alzheimer's disease. The study, ...

Mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's diagnoses trigger lower self-ratings of quality of life

August 3, 2017
Researchers at Penn Medicine have discovered that a patient's awareness of a diagnosis of cognitive impairment may diminish their self-assessment of quality of life. In a study published this month in the Journal of Gerontology: ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.