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The latest Alzheimer’s research brings hope for future cure

What if you could have one little protein changed in one of your genes and no longer have to live with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease? Is it really possible? Can it be true? There seems to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Researchers at the Gladstone Institute have been able to erase memory loss damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. Well… at least in the lab working with cells. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? Importantly, this research took place with human cells, not mice cells. The hope is that this means a future therapy could work in humans. Many research studies work well in mice cells, but then fail in human cells.

ApoE4 Creates Proteins That Damage Memory

ApoE4 is the most important genetic determinant for Alzheimer's. Most people have no ApoE4 genes, but it's believed that 25% of the population has 1 or 2 ApoE4 genes.
  • Having 1 ApoE4 gene increases one's risk for Alzheimer's by 2x to 3x.
  • Having 2 ApoE4 genes increases the risk by 12x.
ApoE4 is a gene that increases production of a toxic protein, called apoliprotein alelle 4. This excess protein fills the space between neurons and clumps up into fragments called amyloid beta proteins. Brains with Alzheimer's have too many amyloid beta "fragment" proteins. The brain is literally clogged with protein.

Changing The Alzheimer's Gene to Harmless ApoE3

Resesarchers changed the structure of ApoE3 using "gene editing" so that it looks and behaves like the similar -- but harmless -- gene ApoE3. Making this change eliminated signs of Alzheimer's, restored normal cell function, and helped the cells to live longer. This means that if scientists can spot the early signs of Alzheimer’s, it may soon be possible to reverse the damage with gene editing. Gene editing in living humans is in the earliest phases of development. Correcting diseases is the primary goal of gene editing.

Stem Cells Make This Research Different

This ApoE4 gene does not perform the same way in mouse cells. That's why the research that's been conducted to date has shown little progress. The senior investigator at Gladstone Institute and lead author of the study, Yadong Huang, stated in a recent interview, “What’s important from this study is that we used human cells... many previous studies were performed on animal models or animal cells." However, with the advent of ‘induced pluripotent stem cells,' it is now possible to use human cells in this vital research. This technology that takes your run-of-the-mill cells and transforms them into stem cells is providing the backdrop for this very exciting research. This seems to be a game changer and yet it is too soon to say that this is a cure. These results are promising, especially since they were exhibited in human cells and not in animal cells. But these results will have to be repeated in humans. This team of researcher are now working to translate these findings into a compound so that human trials will eventually be possible. This quest to cure AD and unlock the mysteries that surround it are happening. In the meantime, it is up to each of us to reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s with heart-healthy and brain-healthy lifestyle choices, a known way to reduce the risk of late-onset Alzheimer's. Source: Gain of toxic apolipoprotein E4 effects in human iPSC-derived neurons is ameliorated by a small-molecule structure corrector

About the Author(s)

As a Volunteer Caregiver to the Zen Hospice Project and a Course Manager at the CareGivers Project, Audrey Meinertzhagen is passionate about improving the standards of care for older adults and educating caregivers on the principles of mindfulness and self-care.

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