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Scientists develop a Drug likely to benefit people with Alzheimer’s Disease

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FILE - An image shows activity in a human brain. Scientists have developed a drug capable of sweeping away abnormal protein clumps in the brain which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. VOA
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Washington, Jan 27, 2017: Scientists have developed a drug they hope will benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts an estimated 44 million people around the world. The new compound sweeps away abnormal protein clumps in the brain which are a hallmark of the neurodegenerative disorder.

In a study reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers describe how a synthetic drug, called antisense oligoneucleotide, reduced the production and in some cases cleared clumps of tau in the brain.

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Tau bundles are one of the hallmarks of the disease, along with beta amyloid deposits, another destructive protein.

By stopping the formation of tau, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found they could extend the lives of mice that were bred to have collections of human tau in their brains.

Lead author Sara DeVos said scientists saw an improvement in their condition.

“So these mice die earlier than normal. So when we treat with our drug, the mice live longer and we can also prevent neurons from dying. So if we give this drug, the neurons will no longer die as a result of these tau bundles,” said DeVos

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The investigators also tested the compound in monkeys and saw positive results.

FILE – Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia are seen during a therapy session. Alzheimer’s afflicts an estimated 44 million people around the world. VOA

Human testing expected soon

Antisense oligneucleotide targets the genetic instructions for building tau. The molecule binds to messenger RNA, which carries out the DNA blueprint for life, preventing tau from being produced. The drug can be made to target RNA for destruction of any protein, said scientists.

Tim Miller, a professor of neurology at Washington University and senior author of the study, hopes the drug, developed with Ionis Pharmaceuticals, will soon be tested in humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The most exciting and most interesting … is to apply this to people who we presume have abnormal tau to test the hypothesis whether lowering tau in those people will be of benefit to those people,” he said.

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Other types of antisense oligoneucleotides have been approved by U.S. regulators and are being used to treat the neurodegenerative disease muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy. The compound is in clinical trials for Huntington’s disease and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Because tau deposits are only a piece of the puzzle that causes Alzheimer’s, the investigators envision using the drug with other treatments, also in development.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which primarily strikes senior adults, leading to a decline in mental functioning and eventually death. (VOA)

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STUDY: Lakes on Mars dried up 3.5bn years ago

A study reveals that lakes on Mars dried up 3.5bn years ago.

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An image of Mars.
Mars. Pixabay

The discovery of cracks on the surface of Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover in early 2017 are evidence of lakes that likely dried up 3.5 billion years ago, confirmed a study, revealing details about the red planet’s ancient climate.

In early 2017 scientists announced the discovery of possible desiccation cracks in Gale Crater, which was filled by lakes 3.5 billion years ago.

“We are now confident that these are mudcracks,” said lead author Nathaniel Stein, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, US.

Since desiccation mudcracks form only where wet sediment is exposed to air, their position closer to the centre of the lake bed rather than the edge also suggests that lake levels rose and fell dramatically over time.

“The mudcracks show that the lakes in Gale Crater had gone through the same type of cycles that we see on Earth,” Stein added.

Representational image for planet Mars.
Representational image. Pixabay

Although scientists have known almost since the moment Curiosity landed in 2012 that Gale Crater once contained lakes, “the mudcracks are exciting because they add context to our understanding of this ancient lacustrine system”, Stein explained, in the paper published in the journal Geology.

“We are capturing a moment in time. This research is just a chapter in a story that Curiosity has been building since the beginning of its mission,” he said.

Also Read: SpaceX to build Mars rockets in Los Angeles

For the study, the team focused on a coffee table-sized slab of rock nicknamed “Old Soaker”.

Old Soaker is crisscrossed with polygons identical in appearance to desiccation features on Earth.

They found that the polygons — confined to a single layer of rock and with sediment filling the cracks between them — formed from exposure to air, rather than other mechanisms such as thermal or hydraulic fracturing, the researchers said.  IANS