London: Scientists claim that memory loss can be prevented in people suffering from Alzheimer`s disease if a chemical that dismantles brain connections is isolated.
A team at University College London says that it has already started research searching for a drug that will block the mechanism, discovered in mice. And, if successful, then a treatment may be available in 10 years, `Daily Mail` reported.
It has long been known that the disease is linked to a build-up of toxic amyloid-beta protein in the brain. Now, the scientists found amyloid-beta stimulates production of another protein, Dkk1, largely responsible for Alzheimer`s symptoms.
Dkk1 destroys synapses, connections between neurons, in the hippocampus area of the brain vital to learning and memory. Studying samples of mouse brain in laboratory, they
found they could neutralise Dkk1 with a specific antibody.
Neurons exposed to the antibody remained healthy with no synaptic disintegration. In practical terms, it is unlikely that a vaccine-type treatment could tackle Alzheimer`s the same way.
However, team leader Dr Patricia Salinas said now that Dkk1`s role was known, there was a chance of developing drugs to target it.
She said: "These novel findings raise the possibility that targeting this secreted Dkk1 protein could offer an effective treatment to protect synapses against the toxic effect of amyloid-beta.
"Importantly, these results raise the hope for a treatment and perhaps the prevention of cognitive decline early in Alzheimer`s disease."