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New Approach Could Transform Alzheimer’s Treatment

The discovery of anti-Alzheimer’s molecules could help researchers develop new drugs to treat this disease

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--by Suzanne Boothby

The Gist

Canadian researchers using computer-aided drug design have discovered a technique that could lead to new treatment options for those with Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Dalhousie University scientists successfully identified molecules that can prevent the accumulation of both beta-amyloid and tau—two proteins thought to cause the disease and disrupt patients’ ability to think and remember.

The biochemistry of Alzheimer’s is not well understood, but current drugs only work to mask its symptoms. This breakthrough, published in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry, could reveal ways to treat the underlying causes of AD and delay the cell damage it causes.

The Expert Take

The authors of the study are excited about their findings, and say their work could aid in the development of disease-modifying drugs for AD.

“Alzheimer's is a devastating disease for which no truly disease-modifying drugs are available,” said study co-author Dr. Donald Weaver, a clinical neurologist at Capital Health, Canada Research Chair in Clinical Neuroscience, and the DMRF Irene MacDonald Sobey Chair in Curative Approaches to Alzheimer's Disease. “Our approach is completely novel. We explore how the human body attempts to protect itself from Alzheimer's, and then we exploit this to develop an entirely new approach to therapeutics.”

Source and Method

The researchers conducted their study “in silico,” or using a computer. This phrase was coined more than 20 years ago, and is similar to other terms like “in vivo” or “in vitro.” This technique has the potential to speed the rate of discovery by reducing time spent doing lab work and clinical trials.

The Takeaway

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and one of the biggest health challenges worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates global cases of dementia to double in the next 20 years, and in Canada, rates are expected to more than double. The cost of care will increase from $15 billion annually to $153 billion annually, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

This new research identifies ways to work with the body’s natural defenses to treat AD, and could make a difference for many patients and their families.

Other Research

A new study by scientists at the University of Bristol is looking at a compound first examined in the treatment of prostate cancer that could potentially delay or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Tags: Drugs , Latest Studies & Research , Treatments

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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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