Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease destroys a person’s ability to mentally perform even the simplest tasks because it slowly ruins memory and thinking skills. The late-onset type of the disease usually manifests in people in their late 60s. Alzheimer’s disease develops between 31 and 65 years of age, but it is very rare. Older adults most commonly suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
The New Treatment Will Focus On Malfunctioning Brain Cells To Treat Alzheimer’s
Old, sick cells do not die off when they should because they cannot repair themselves properly. Their function is abnormal, and they release substances that cause inflammation and damage to surrounding healthy cells. It contributes to the aging process, cognitive decline, and cancer as they accumulate in the body’s tissues.
New Alzheimer’s treatments might be possible after a population of potentially toxic senescent cells was discovered in the human brain.
A team of scientists also examined brain tissue taken from people with Alzheimer’s to verify the findings. There are many possibilities available now because these brain cells have been identified, including potential treatments for Alzheimer’s patients, according to Orr.
Researchers found that senescent cells accumulated in Alzheimer’s disease mouse models, contributing to the loss of brain cells, inflammation, and memory impairment in the mice. They could stop disease progression and cell death when they cleared the senescent cells.
However, we did not know how many senescent cells accumulate in the human brain until now, and the actual characteristics of these cells,” Orr said. We weren’t quite sure what the needle looked like, so it was like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.”
The study, published in Nature Aging on Dec. 10, was led by Miranda Orr, Ph.D., assistant professor of gerontology and geriatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and research health scientist at the William G. Heckler Veterans Administration Medical Center, and Habil Zare, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell systems and anatomy at University of Texas Health San Antonio.
Previous research from Wake Forest School of Medicine, the University of Texas Health in San Antonio, and the Mayo Clinic demonstrated that the treatment was safe and effective in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases. According to Orr, the three sites will conduct the ADDF-funded clinical trial once again.
There were many organizations involved in the study, including the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Team members identified the type of cell and characteristics of senescent brain cells that comprised approximately 3% of the brain cells. Senescent cells were found to be neurons, which are the neuronal units of the brain responsible for the processing of information and memory. In Alzheimer’s disease, senescent neurons are also lost.
The team then looked for abnormal accumulations of tau in the senescent neurons, which are connected to Alzheimer’s disease. If they found any, Orr and his team found them to tangle. A person’s brain tangles increase with the severity of Alzheimer’s disease, Orr said.
Senescent neurons were found to contain tangles and overlap so closely that it was impossible to distinguish between them.
The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation will fund Dr. Orr’s Phase 2 clinical trial, determining how removing senescent cells could help older adults with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s. Research at Mayo Clinic led to the discovery of the drug by repurposing a drug approved for the treatment of cancer, in combination with antioxidant flavonoids.
The research team analyzed a large amount of data using sophisticated statistical analysis. Over tens of thousands of cells were examined from the postmortem brains of Alzheimer’s patients who had died. Initially, researchers planned to find out if senescent cells exist and then determine how many of them are and what kind of cells they are. Researchers succeeded in their goal.
The inclusion of analytics in Alzheimer’s research can provide a new approach to treatment development. Identifying the underlying biological cause of Alzheimer’s disease, including toxic senescent cells, is hugely important for the field, as it will allow us to develop drugs addressing them.