A potential dementia treatment breakthrough by US scientists has discovered a new protein that appears to combat the deterioration of the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, a potential cancer cure uses a modified measles virus to wipe out the cancerous cells.
While the discovery is not quite ready to be used actively for dementia treatment, the Scripps Research Institute in California studied the protein transthyretin (TTR) and found that it appears to stop toxic plaques from building up in the brain and causing Alzheimer's symptoms. Professor Joel Buxbaum says the results were surprising because TTR is typically found in the liver and is typically more harmful than helpful:
"This result was completely unexpected when we started. But now we realize that it could indicate a new approach for Alzheimer's prevention and therapy."
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, concurs with this assessment:
"It is interesting that a protein that can be harmful in some diseases could be protective in others and highlights the complexity of the human body and the challenges facing dementia research."
The reason that TTR may be useful in developing a dementia treatment is because it blocks another protein, amyloid beta, from clumping together to form the plaques which cause memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's. But this process apparently takes many years for the build up to reach the point where the brain does not function properly. Lab tests using mice have shown that boosting TTR can actually protect against amyloid beta and Ridley says the next stage is to develop a drug that could potentially cure and prevent dementia completely:
"Research is showing that Alzheimer's is caused by complex molecular events in the brain and it is important to identify the key players. Molecular studies like this can help identify potential targets for new treatments but this will need investigation in people. Cell stress seems to have a role to play. This research suggests a chain of events that could be involved."
Still, experts believe that the key to successful dementia treatment is to identify Alzheimer's symptoms early on. In this case another study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry shows that older adults with schizophrenia are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to non-schizophrenic patients.