Billions of dollars have been spent on Alzheimer’s research over the past 100 years and while much has been said about slowing its progress or mitigating the disease’s impacts, a cure remains elusive.
But a new theory just in from St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney is expected to set the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to conventional research on the illness.
Up until now the majority of Alzheimer’s disease treatments have focussed on the “amyloid hypotheses” – the idea that treatment should be based on removing the beta-amyloid proteins that hinder connections in the brain.
However, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney’s new study shows that the deterioration of synapses (connections between brain cells), might be the fundamental trigger for Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers used mice model experiments to identify how synapses deteriorate through faulty molecular processes. By successfully resetting these processes they also discovered how lost memory can be recovered.
Using their findings, the researchers will develop interventions to protect the brain’s synapses and, hopefully, stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.
St Vincent’s Sydney’s Professor and research leader Bryce Vissel said, “Our research set out to answer the question: by rescuing these connections, can we rescue memory?”
“We now have compelling evidence, in a model of Alzheimer’s, that preventing the breakdown in these synapses is possible,” Vissel said.
He stated this in turn “rescues memory, offering a new way forward to understanding and treating the disease”.
He confirmed that his team would now be working towards developing an effective treatment for this devastating disease.
Vissel has long been a detractor of the “amyloid hypotheses”.
In 2018, soon after Pfizer hung up their boots on Alzheimer’s disease research he told The Sydney Morning Herald, “It’s been 100 years of the amyloid hypothesis. The treatments that have been in development are consistently failing. There is a growing sense that maybe we need to rethink the direction of the field.”
According to the New Daily at the time the SMH noted that Australia’s experts believed the evidence for the amyloid hypothesis was overwhelming and that some of these researchers said Vissel was “at best a fringe researcher” after a study he did in 2013 showed that plaques occurred after memory loss and were therefore not reliable as an early pathological marker of the disease.
But the tide is turning as Alzheimer’s disease research now finds itself at a crossroads.
Much research has also been done into how to detect the disease before it manifests itself. A lot has also been said about dietary interventions that could also reduce the disease’s signs.
Together with Vissler’s latest research hopefully a cure will be on the horizon soon.