Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and various other diseases afflict millions throughout the US every year. What these diseases all have in common is that they affect the nervous system of the brain as well as other parts of the body. The nervous system triggers most movements in the body. It allows us to use our five senses to analyze the world around us. In an individual with one of the aforementioned diseases, the nervous system begins to break down. Triggering and controlling actions becomes difficult, memory begins to disappear, and the senses begin to dwindle. When neurons, the base cells of the nervous system, are disconnected from one another or become damaged, we begin to deteriorate from the inside.
Until now, the only cure for this was a healthy lifestyle, though that only slowed down the deterioration. Recently, a new chemical has been discovered that could turn out to be revolutionary in future cures. This chemical, not yet named, has the distinction GSK2606414 and has shown tremendous results in laboratory mice with a disease caused by a degenerative brain agent called prions. In the experiment, lab mice with a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s were given this chemical. Normally, these diseased mice had a 12 week life span, but this chemical not only extended the 12 weeks, but at the end of the 12 weeks, there was extremely minimal degeneration, if any at all. As an added benefit, not only did it prevent deterioration, but it also had a reversal on cognitive deficits. This chemical compound targeted areas of the brain in which other chemicals were causing disarray and prevented further harm.
There is a long way to go for this research. Currently, GSK2606414 is quite toxic and the mice given doses of this drug suffered weight loss and the development of diabetes. Human trials with this drug are at least another decade away. However, this is the closest we have ever gotten to a cure for the millions afflicted by some neural disease, and further research may shed light on a similar but better alternative. This particular chemical was dangerous, but another chemical could be developed that would act similarly, which is the current direction of research. One of the lead researchers on this study said, “Targeting a mechanism relevant to a number of neurodegenerative diseases could yield a single drug with wide-reaching benefits, but this compound is still at an early stage. It will be important for these findings to be repeated and tested in models of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.” This study may not bear any fruit, but the seeds seem to have taken root, and one day, Alzheimer’s may be nothing more than a memory.
For full findings, please read ‘Oral Treatment Targeting the Unfolded Protein Response Prevents Neurodegeneration and Clinical Disease in Prion-Infected Mice’ by Julie A. Moreno, in Science Translational Medicine.
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