Karen Kloosterman writes for Israel 21c about a groundbreaking new Israeli study demonstrating how it’s possible to restore a balance of key proteins in brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Several studies have already shown how simple, everyday activities like crossword puzzles, or reading books as well as more complicated activities like learning a new language or Tai Chi Ch’uan, can stave off the effects of the disease.
Kloosterman writes, “Those studying and working with Alzheimer’s patients generally accept this as fact. When the mind processes challenging puzzles or new information, it makes links in the brain, possibly exercising brain synapses, the neural networks that power our brains.”
But now Israeli researcher Inna Slutsky has found an important missing link in the research that has lead to something of a breakthrough. “Based on the long-suspected evidence that a build-up of amyloid-beta protein in the brain causes Alzheimer’s, which affects 5.4 million people in the United States alone,” Kloosterman explains, researchers have found that “it’s not just the amount of amyloid that can create the onset of Alzheimer’s, she says, but the specific kind of amyloid protein found in the brain. An imbalance of amyloid-beta 40, compared to its counterpart amyloid-beta 42, is found in those suffering the effects of the disease.”
Slutsky’s research focused on restoring the balance between the two amyloids. Along with research associate Iftach Dolev, and student Hilla Fogel, the team stimulated hippocampus regions of the brain in mice with Alzheimer’s. This is the key region of the brain for memory and learning.
What they found was that there are “distinct patterns of electrical pulses, known as spikes, and the way the brain synapses filter high-frequency bursts of electricity, help regulate a healthy amyloid-beta 40/42 ratio.”
They were able to restore the balance of amyloid-beta 40 and 42 so that the proportions became more like the makeup of a healthy brain. How? Using electricity.
Employing artificial bursts of electricity in the brain their article published in Nature Neuroscience on April 7, argues that such electrical therapy can form the basis of a future therapy in human sufferers.
“We hypothesize that changes in the temporal patterns of spikes in the hippocampus may trigger structural changes in the presenilin, leading to early memory impairments in people with sporadic Alzheimer’s,” says Slutsky.
The leading Alzheimer’s researcher Professor Amos Korczyn, a neurologist also from Tel Aviv University, explained that Slutsky’s research is indeed of great significance.
“Beta amyloid is a key molecule in Alzheimer’s disease,” he told Israel 21c. “All the big drug companies are now trying to invent agents that will reduce the load of this substance in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Theoretically we could develop drugs that would mimic the effects of the electrical stimulations. This is far in the future, though,” says Korczyn.
“For now, this study has been done on animals, and it’s been done over a short term. So we would need to see what extent this effect would have when it’s applied to humans and treatments over several months.
“Unlike crude electroshock treatments used in schizophrenia, we are talking about a very delicate, gentle and highly focused electrical stimulation,” he notes.
Slutsky and her team plan to focus on using their findings to help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Original source: Political Blindspot
Image Credits: Brain Repair