Could Alzheimer’s be treated with gene therapy?

The development of Alzheimer’s disease was prevented in mice by facilitating the use of viruses to deliver a specific gene to the brain. Researchers at Imperial College believe that this could open up many new opportunities in how it is possible to treat the degenerative disease.

The same team previously found that the gene used (PGC1-alpha) may prevent the production of amyloid-beta peptide-a protein-in cells in the lab. This protein is what causes amyloid plaques found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s diseases. These plaques are thought to cause the death of brain cells.

Over half a million people in the UK have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, and change in personality. However, worldwide, almost 50 million people have their lives influenced by dementia. There is currently no cure, but treatments such as these provide us with hope that soon we will be able to treat Alzheimer’s in a more effective way than we have been able to before.

The modified virus was called a lentivirus vector, which is used a lot in gene therapy. The virus was injected containing the gene into the mice brains with Alzheimer’s. The animals treated had not yet developed any amyloid plaques as they were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Four months later, the researchers found that mice that had been treated with the gene had very few amyloid plaques compared with the mice who ad not been treated at all, who had multiple. Also, in memory tests, the treated mice performed to the same level as mice who had never had Alzheimer’s disease.

We can see that the future is promising for the treatment or even prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, which would make a huge impact on many people’s lives.

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