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Alydia Stark | 24 th May 2021
As of 2020, almost six million people across America suffer from Alzheimers. This heartbreaking disease negatively affects not only those diagnosed, but also their families. Alzheimers is a progressive disease and the most common form of dementia. It affects the memory, thinking and behavior of those diagnosed. Currently, there’s no cure.
The most common Alzheimer patient is someone aged 65 and older and usually a woman. Women have a one in five chance of developing the disease while men have a one in 11. The biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimers is increasing age, but it shouldn’t be considered normal in the slightest. Growing old shouldn’t be seen as a ticket to developing Alzheimers. A key concept in the development of Alzheimers began with the study of chaperone-mediated autophagy or CMA. CMA was the first process studied that showed “degradation of intracellular components by the lysosome,” can sometimes be selective (Kaushik, S., Cuervo A., 2018). In simpler terms, lysosomes are able to pick which part of the cell to break down and have no specific pattern as to how they do it. It’s also considered a cell-cleaning process.
Overtime the degradation done causes the CMA to begin failing thus causing diseases such as Alzheimers. CMA becomes much less efficient as we get older and increases the likelihood of unwanted proteins starting to develop in clumps thus damaging cells in our brain.
Although a cure hasn’t yet been discovered, research done at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECM) involving mice moves us one step closer to finding answers. The study involves a drug that “works by reinvigorating a cellular cleaning mechanism that gets rid of unwanted proteins,” in the brain by digesting and recycling them (AECM, 2021). The drug was able to reverse key Alzheimers symptoms in their lab mice. For the experiment, Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo and her team looked at how impaired CMA’s may contribute to Alzheimer’s. In order to do this, they “genetically engineered a mouse to have excitatory brain neurons,” that didn’t have any CMA’s (AECM, 2021). Dr. Cuervo and her team were able to discover that without CMA’s in their brain cells, the mice appeared to have short-term memory loss and impaired walking. Also, the absence of CMA disrupted “the cells’ ability to regulate proteins they contain,” (AECM, 2021). The study revealed a novel drug that showed potential for treating Alzheimer’s by revitalizing CMA that’s usually lost as we age.
For the first time, Dr. Cuervo’s team was able to isolate and observe the cause of declining CMA’s in humans and create a drug that led to improvements in memory, movement, depression and anxiety in mice. It's extremely likely the drug will mirror the success in mice with that of humans. Who knows, maybe we will see a cure for Alzheimer’s in our lifetime. Keep an eye out for news updates involving all things medical!
For more information, check out these links below!
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210422150402.htm https://www.einsteinmed.org/news/2563/experimental-drug-shows-potential-against-alzheimers- disease/ https://www.alzheimers.net/8-12-15-why-is-alzheimers-more-likely-in-women https://www.nature.com/articles/s41580-018-0001-6