New potential cause of Alzheimer's discovered
The exact causes of Alzheimer's disease are not known. There are a number of 'risk factors' that have been identified, but in many cases the exact link between these behaviours - such as smoking - and the condition is not known. However, a new breakthrough might have identified a chemical responsible for the development of Alzheimer's.
Researchers at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and New York University's Langone Medical Center identified a chemical called beta CTF that is the precursor to the amyloid beta peptide known to be connected with Alzheimer's. They believe this is linked to the initial development of the disease.
The chemical occurs during a process known as endocytosis. This is how cells absorb nutrients and otherwise interact with the environment around them. For some time, researchers have known that Alzheimer's is linked to abnormalities in this process. In fact, this often occurs before any symptoms can be spotted.
The researchers found that, in patients with Alzheimer's disease, beta CTF tends to form on the pathways leading to brain cells to do with memory. This, combined with other discoveries on a cellular level, heavily implies that beta CTF is associated with the development of Alzheimer's.
It is thought that this discovery could well lead to a new drug treatment for Alzheimer's. At the moment, anti-Alzheimer's drugs suppress the formation of amyloid beta, another chemical that is linked to the early stages of the disease. The implications of the new research is that drugs that reduce beta CTF as well as amyloid beta could see more effective results.
A new class of medicines known as BACE1 inhibitors are being designed to do exactly this. This could end up leading to the ability to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease at a very early stage in its development.