A new study revealed that deleting a single enzyme can cause a total reversal of amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. By removing this key enzyme, researchers noticed improved cognitive functions in lab mice.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, by removing the enzyme BACE1, which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s, brain plaques connected to the disease start to retreat.
“To our knowledge, this is the first observation of such a dramatic reversal of amyloid deposition, in any study of Alzheimer’s disease mouse models,” said Riqiang Yan, the study’s senior researcher.
While scientists are not absolutely sure what causes Alzheimer’s, a common occurrence in all patients suffering from the disease are buildups of plaque which cause cell death and tissue loss in the brain.
The experimental treatment for mice discovered that the buildup of amyloid plaque started to disintegrate when scientists removed the beta-secretase enzyme (BACE1), which was previously linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.
According to Yan, their initial hope when removing the BACE1 enzyme was to slow the formation of amyloid plaques, however, they soon noticed that the plaques started fading away. Beta-amyloid peptides that build up into plaques on the brains of Alzheimer’s patients have long been associated with a number of symptoms associated with the disease including memory loss.
Using BACE1 inhibitors to lower the enzyme’s levels caused reduced neuron loss and improved brain function in the mice, according to the study.
“When we looked at the mice later—at six months old and 10 months old—all those pre-existing plaques were gone,” Yan said.
Researchers, however, cautioned that the treatments is still in its early stages and it could be a long time before a similar treatment could be applied to humans.
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