Scientists have long hoped to find the cause, and subsequently the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. A new study reports they may be a step closer to that goal as scientists have discovered cholesterol’s role in promoting Alzheimer’s disease.
Voice of America reports that researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee have described the molecular structure of a protein called amyloid precursor protein, or APP. The protein is the early source of amyloid beta, a another protein that forms in clumps on the brain cells of Alzheimer’s disease victims, causing the memory loss and dementia.
They found that amyloid beta’s creation process involved two enzyme “cuts”, of the APP. The first produces something called C99, and that substance surprised researchers by clinging to cholesterol.
Lead researcher Charles Sanders, a biochemist at Vanderbilt, told Voice of America that anything that prevents this binding of cholesterol and C99 should also prevent, or treat, Alzheimer’s disease.
Just how that would work remains a mystery, though Sanders suggest once treatments are developed, preventative means might be most effective.
Science finding cholesterol’s role in promoting Alzheimer’s disease isn’t the only breakthrough in that field of research this week.
The Houston Chronicle reports Dr. Paul Schulz, a neurologist with the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, recently completed a test just approved by the Food and Drug Administration to detect the presence of proteins in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The test searches for amyloid proteins, and could prove to be an effective diagnostic tool in the fight against Alzheimer’s. In the case of Schulz patient, the man in his 60s did not have the protein’s present.
According to the Houston Chronicle‘s report, the test uses a radioactive agent to tag the proteins during a brain imaging scan, a new technique approved last spring for use beginning Friday.
Prior to this test, the amyloid proteins could only be detected after death during an autopsy. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
Now with doctors understanding the cholesterol’s role in promoting Alzheimer’s and new tests being developed, there is some hope progress could be made in stopping or better treating the disease.