New research by scientists at Columbia University suggests that boosting the function of a certain enzyme may provide a promising strategy for battling Alzheimer's disease, and possibly reversing its effects.
The enzyme, known as ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase L1 (Uch-L1), repairs brain cells and helps them rid themselves of the amyloid beta proteins or malformed proteins, that are suspected of contributing to the disease.
The researchers successfully restored normal memory and synaptic function in mice suffering from Alzheimer's disease by elevating the enzyme's function.
They say at present it is not known if the approach will work in humans, but the researchers are optimistic.
Alzheimer's disease affects about 4.5 million Americans and remains very difficult to treat.
That number that is expected to soar in the coming decades as the population ages and though some drugs are available, their effectiveness is limited.
According to co-author Michael Shelanski, MD, Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Pathology at Columbia, the new research expands on previous findings that suggests a shortage of an enzyme in the brain may be connected to Alzheimer's.
Unfortunately, says Shelanski, it will take years to develop a drug for people.
The work was supported by the National Institutes of Neurological Disease and Stroke and the Alzheimer's Center Program of the National Institute of Aging.
The study findings appear on the web site of the journal Cell.