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Research Indicates Promising Future Treatment for Alzheimer’s

Contact: Jennifer Bonck

Photo of Louis B. Hersh
Louis B. Hersh

“This paper shows the potential for using this enzyme (neprilysin) for preventing AD as well as for slowing or preventing the progression of the disease in patients already suffering from AD.”

April 9, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Research conducted at the University of Kentucky and elsewhere indicates that increasing the level of a natural brain enzyme can lead to the breakdown of plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients.

This finding may lead to an effective treatment for the disease that could prevent AD as well as slow the progression of the disease. Plaques in the AD brain, called amyloid plaques, are believed to be a major cause of the disease, and preventing their formation could be the basis for this promising new therapy.

Building on previous research, a team of scientists, including Louis B. Hersh, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, UK College of Medicine, used gene therapy to increase the level of a brain enzyme, neprilysin, in one side of the brains of mice. These animal brains were producing human amyloid plaques.

“The number of protein plaques in the treated side was reduced by about half compared with the control treated side,” said Hersh. “This paper shows the potential for using this enzyme (neprilysin) for preventing AD as well as for slowing or preventing the progression of the disease in patients already suffering from AD.” Hersh notes that more research is needed before these results could be applied to human patients.

Hersh, in collaboration with researchers at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, Calif., and the University of California, San Diego, reported these findings in the March issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, a leading neuroscience journal.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


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