Breakthrough Means Easier Alzheimer’s Research

By 9  am on

It is estimated that 44 million people worldwide suffer from some form of dementia, and the number of people diagnosed, as well as those caring for them, is ever-increasing. A recent breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research, which has been dubbed “Alzheimer’s in a Dish,” offers new hope as a quick, easy and inexpensive way to test thousands of pharmaceuticals used for treatment of the disease.

“Alzheimer’s in a Dish” is the formation and growth of human brain cells that exhibit the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease within a gel-filled petri dish. The research team at Massachusetts General Hospital, led by Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, successfully grew human stem cells that were mutated to create amyloid plaques in six weeks. Two to four weeks later, the cells developed tangles and resembled that of a human brain with Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Tanzi says that there are three tell-tale stages of Alzheimer’s that work in a cyclical manner. Because these three components work together, preventing one step has the potential to disrupt the entire process. With this new model, testing how drugs interfere with each stage is easier than ever before. A caveat of “Alzheimer’s in a dish” is that while it recreates the building process of amyloid plaques to tangles, inflammation is not evident, which is defining trait in Alzheimer’s patients. But the research team is in the process of creating a second dish model that exhibits inflammation.

Dr. Tanzi and his team are aiming to test 1,200 drugs that are currently on the market and 5,000 experimental drugs that have completed the first phase of clinical testing, all within a matter of months. There is a long way to go before finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, but with breakthroughs like this, we’re getting closer.

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