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Treatment that reverses Alzheimer’s in mice ready for human testing

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers suggest Alzheimer's disease might be reversed in humans

Alzheimer’s disease is expected to double worldwide in the next two decades, making it important to find ways to prevent treat or even reverse the disease. In mouse studies, researchers have been able to see improvements in Alzheimer’s behaviors using an antibody that blocks the immune molecule p40.

The researchers think the finding has applications for humans; not just mice.

Alzheimer’s disease is thought to occur from abnormal proteins in the brain, which include beta amyloids or amyloid-ß deposits.

Prof. Frank Heppner from the Department of Neuropathology at Charité and his colleague Prof. Burkhard Becher from the Institute for Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich found they could turn off cytokines in the brains of mice with the disease that transmit signals and lead to inflammation

Once they were able to reduce the Alzheimer's typical amyloid-ß deposits by 65%, there was an effect on the immune molecule p40 – a component of the cytokines interleukin 12 (IL-12) and 12 (IL-23).

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The effect was present in mice showing Alzheimer’s symptoms. Their behavior improved when they were given the antibody to block the immune molecule p40.

Prof. Heppner and Prof. Becher believe the findings that were confirmed in follow-up testing suggest clinical trials in humans are warranted, though they suspect IL-12 and IL-23 are not causing Alzheimer’s disease. They also note further clarification of the role of p40 in the Alzheimer’s disease process is needed.

There is already a drug that suppresses p40; used to treat psoriasis that the professors say has an established safety profile. The study authors say based on the mouse studies, clinical trials in humans should e started ‘without delay’.

Finding ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease is an important focus. The mouse studies have taken place over the last 6 years, justifying the next step which would to see if blocking p40 could reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms in humans too.

Nature Medicine
November 25, 2012.
doi: 10.1038/nm.2965

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