A recent study published in Science Translational Medicine suggests targeting inflammation in the brain to stop it in its way.
Scientists may have found a way to reverse the effect of dementia in mice instead of the previous method of targeting the typical rogue proteins associated with the condition. According to a report by Good News Network, most dementia treatments today target the amyloid plaques found in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine suggests targeting inflammation in the brain which might stop in its way. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted these experiments on a bunch of senile mice who became significantly better at learning new tasks, almost as skillful as those half their age.
While working on this successful treatment in mice, researchers found that as we age, the blood-brain barriers begin to leak. With the loss of this filtration system, infectious organisms and chemicals enter the brain and destroy the neurons. Co-author of the study Professor Alon Friedman, through previous MRI scans, found that this barrier breaks down in around 60% of people by the age of 70. After experimenting with mice, they found that this deterioration of the protective sheet causes an inflammatory fog that alters the brain's rhythms, thus causing tiny seizure-like events. This, in turn, leads to momentary lapses in the hippocampus (it controls our memories).
USA, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY - Dare we hope? For the first time, scientists @UCBERKELEY have reversed dementia in mice with drug that reduces brain inflammation https://t.co/fP2pzU04fq via @SkyStatement— Veronica Franklin Gould FRSA (@VeronicArts) 8 December 2019
"We tend to think about the aged brain in the same way we think about neuro-degeneration," said Daniela Kaufer, a senior author professor of the University of California, Berkeley. "Age involves loss of function and dead cells. But our new data tell a different story about why the aged brain is not functioning well. It is because of this ‘fog’ of [an] inflammatory load. But when you remove that inflammatory fog, within days, the aged brain acts like a young brain," he added. "It is a really, really optimistic finding, in terms of the capacity for plasticity that exists in the brain. We can reverse brain aging."
To confirm this new theory, they ran EEGs which showed similar brain wave disruption in patients with Alzheimer’s, along with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and epilepsy. A gene known as TGF-β that fuels the inflammation triggering blood protein albumin was blocked using a drug called IPW. "We now have two biomarkers that tell you exactly where the blood-brain barrier is leaking, so you can select patients for treatment and make decisions about how long you give the drug," explained Professor Kaufer. "You can follow them, and when the blood-brain barrier is healed, you no longer need the drug."
When this drug was administered to mice in doses, it lowered the gene’s activity resulting in their brains looking younger; the inflammation was reduced and the brain waves had improved as well as reduced seizure susceptibility. While analyzing brain tissue from humans Professor Kaufer discovered evidence of albumin in aged brains and increased neuroinflammation and TGF-β production. Friedman, a professor at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, developed a special type of MRI called DCE (dynamic contrast-enhanced) which helped with the detection of more leakage in the blood-brain barrier of patients with greater cognitive decline.
With the help of these studies and findings, experts were able to point out that a dysfunction in the brain’s blood filtration system was one of the earliest triggers of neurological aging, explained Kaufer. Now her team has started a company to develop a kind of drug which would heal the blood-brain barrier for clinical treatment. Eventually, this may even help people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who have show signs of leakage of the blood-brain barrier. "We got to this through this back door; we started with questions about plasticity having to do with the blood-brain barrier, traumatic brain injury and how epilepsy develops," said Kaufer.
"But after we’d learned a lot about the mechanisms, we started thinking that maybe in aging, it is the same story. This is new biology, a completely new angle on why neurological function deteriorates as the brain ages," she continued. Although the successful tests were performed on mice, experts are optimistic that this method will work on humans as well and finally lead to a cure for the debilitating condition. In addition to helping patients with Alzheimer's they claim that their strategy could also help with the recovery of brain following concussions, strokes, or traumatic brain injuries. As of now, there are drugs that simply help counter the symptoms shown by Alzheimer’s patients and not the cause. With the latest findings and the new drugs, things might soon change in the field of medicine.