Research Raises Hope of Brainwashing Cure for Alzheimer's

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A new study by scientists at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland has found molecular differences in the brain processes of individuals with Alzheimer's disease, which could form the basis of new therapies for the disease.

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Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough in research on the brain processes of people with Alzheimer's disease, raising hopes of new therapy for the disease, which is currently unpreventable and incurable.

By comparing the brain tissue of individuals who suffered from the disease with that of laboratory models, the researchers found differences in the blood vessels which formed the brain's blood-brain barrier [BBB] that regulates what passes between the brain and the bloodstream, cleaning the brain of neurotoxins.

"We have shown that distinct components of these blood vessels termed tight junctions are altered in Alzheimer's disease. We think that this alteration could be an entrained mechanism to allow for the clearance of toxic amyloid-beta from the brain in those living with Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. James Keaney of the university's School of Genetics and Microbiology, who led the study. 

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Previous research on the disease has found an increased presence of 'amyloid-beta,' a kind of amino acid which forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

 The results of the latest study are the first to examine the movement of amyloid-beta across the pathway between the cells of the blood-brain barrier, and identify the membrane proteins which could clear brain amyloid-beta across the barrier, and form a therapy for Alzheimer's disease.

"These findings also indicate that controlled modulation of tight junction components at the BBB can enhance the clearance of amyloid-beta from the brain," write the scientists in their paper, published in the journal Science Advances.

Alzheimer's disease is the fourth leading cause of death in individuals over the age of 65, and around 36 million people worldwide currently suffer from it. The disease is the only cause of death among the top ten killers for which there is no prevention or cure, or even a way of slowing its progress. 

"Given the recent advances in clinical trials of anti-amyloid beta antibodies, we hope our findings may lead to improved and adjunctive forms of therapy for this devastating condition," said Trinity's Assistant Professor in Genetics Matthew Campbell, adding that further research will now concentrate on ways of clearing the protein across the barrier, and out of the brain.

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