The most recent Alzheimer’s research has been focused on the role of inflammation, already known to be a primary cause of several other diseases. The amyloid plaques and tau tangles of Alzheimer’s disease cause inflammation in the brain; the inflammation then damages the brain’s microglia (immune) cells whose role is to remove the dangerous protein clumps. But when the immune cells are damaged, the result is more inflammation, more damage to nerve cells, more plaques, and decreased cognitive ability.
Two different studies employed unique methods to stop this dangerous cycle in the brain.
The first study, led by researchers at Lancaster University and funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, used a nasal spray to deliver microscopic droplets of fat that carry drugs into the brain. These droplets, called nanoliposomes, are coated in protein fragments that can stop the amyloid protein from accumulating into plaques without activating an immune response in the brain. Mice that received the drug recovered long-term memory after 24 hours, compared to the control group that had no memory of objects seen the day before. The hope is that one day this treatment could be used at home as a nasal spray.
The second study, at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, involved an experimental drug to prevent or decrease inflammation and remove abnormal protein clumps in the brain. According to the lead researcher, Mohamed Naguib, M.D., the drug, called NTRX-07, uses a different mechanism that goes after the cause of the disease rather than just the symptoms. It works by targeting the CB2 receptors on the surface of microglia cells, leading to decreased inflammation and brain damage. The drug also improved removal of abnormal plaques and improved memory and other cognitive skills. Mice bred to have symptoms of Alzheimer’s were restored to normal levels of memory after treatment with the drug, in contrast with the placebo group.