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February 01, 2017

Temple University study pinpoints Alzheimer's disease trigger

Research also points to a potential new treatment


A new study by researchers at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine has identified a trigger for early onset of Alzheimer's disease, and with it, a potential new treatment.

As noted by Temple Health, the study centers on the discovery of glucose deprivation in the brain of those experiencing symptoms associated with the disease, including cognitive decline and memory impairment.

The study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry on Jan. 31, explains that glucose acts as fuel for the hippocampus, which plays a key role in processing and storing memories, and therefore without its fuel, the neurons starve and eventually die, causing cognitive decline.

To conduct the study, the researchers, led by Dr. Domenico Praticò, a Temple professor in the Center for Translational Medicine, injected live lab mice with a compound that stops glucose from entering and being utilized by cells over a period of several months.

The mice were then evaluated for cognitive function through maze tests, which determined that glucose-deprived mice performed significantly worse than control mice.

Moreover, the researchers were able to directly link memory impairment to glucose deprivation in the brain specifically through a mechanism involving the accumulation of a protein known as phosphorylated tau. They also found that memory impairment was directly associated with increased accumulation of another protein, p38.

The next step, as Praticò noted, is to attempt to inhibit p38 to see if memory impairments can be alleviated, despite glucose deprivation.

“A drug targeting this protein could bring big benefits for patients," Praticò told Temple Health.

Read more at Temple Health.

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