Cambridge scientists have found a window of opportunity that could be used to rescue damaged nerve cells in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The findings of the Cambridge researchers, funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, will be published in Brain tomorrow.
Alzheimer’s disease causes nerve cells in the brain to die, resulting in problems with memory, speech and understanding. Little is known about how the nerve cells die, but this new research has revealed how they first lose the ability to communicate with each other, before deteriorating further.
The project’s lead researcher, Dr Michael Coleman, of the BBSRC funded Babraham Institute, Cambridge, said: “This is very important for treatment because in normal adult life nerve cell connections constantly disappear and reform, but can only do so if the supporting parts of the cell remain. Our results suggest a window in which damaged connections between brain cells could recover under the right conditions.
“We’ve been able to look at whole nerve cells affected by Alzheimer’s. For the first time we have shown that supporting parts of nerve cells are alive, and we can now learn how to intervene to recover connections.”
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “This is an exciting development which could lead to new treatments, and demonstrates the excellence of British dementia research. If it’s possible to rescue severely damaged brain cell connections, we could perhaps slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. Further research is urgently needed if we are to offer hope to the 700,000 people in the UK who live with dementia.”
For further information or to speak to either Rebecca Wood, Dr Coleman or someone able to speak about their personal experience of dementia, please contact the charity’s Press Officer, Alison Cranage on 01223 843304 or email [email protected]
Notes to editors
· The Alzheimer’s Research Trust provides free information on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias: phone 01223 843899 or visit www.alzheimers-research.org.uk. The charity relies solely on public donations to fund its research.
· Dementia research is severely under-funded – only £11 is spent on UK Alzheimer’s research annually per patient, compared to £289 for people with cancer. Care services for dementia costs the UK more than cancer, heart disease and stroke combined.
· Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which affects nearly 700,000 people in the UK, a number forecast to double within a generation. Currently there is no cure for the disease.
* The paper “Severely dystrophic axons at amyloid plaques remain continuous and connected to viable cell bodies” is published by Oxford University Press in the journal Brain on Friday 5th Dec.
* The Babraham Institute is a charitable organisation devoted to biomedical research which is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The Babraham Research Campus is located six miles south-east of Cambridge. Website: www.babraham.ac.uk