Scientists claim Alzheimer's "turning point"

They discover a compound that halts brain decay. Next step: A drug that deploys it.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
Alzheimer's enemy: Prof. Giovanna Mallucci

Scientists in Britain have made a significant advance that could lead to a drug for treating Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases.

A team at the University of Leicester in England said they have discovered a chemical compound that prevents brain tissue from dying, as it does in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and other neurological conditions, the BBC reported.

The researchers gave the compound to mice that had degenerative prion disease, an affliction that would normally lead to rapid loss of memory and movement, and that would kill the rodents within 12 weeks.

"They were absolutely fine, it was extraordinary," said lead researcher Prof. Giovanna Mallucci. "What's really exciting is a compound has completely prevented neurodegeneration and that's a first."

Her "absolutely fine" assessment seems somewhat subjective as, yes, the mice did show side effects, like pancreas damage that contributed to weight loss and a mild form of diabetes.

In addition to addressing those issues, the next step - and it will be a big one - will be for pharmaceutical companies to put the compound into a drug to treat humans.

The BBC did not identify the compound, nor did the researchers reveal it in an abstract on the Science Magazine website, where they described the treatment as "oral."

Pardon the lighthearted observation on a serious subject, but now that we have a bunch of mice who can once again remember where the crumbs are, let's hope the scientists don't forget to infuse a pill with the right stuff that can stave off memory and muscle loss in we the people.

Photo is a screen grab from the University of Leicester website

An earlier advance:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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