Research highlight

Health: Molecule may help clear amyloid-beta plaques in mice

Nature Communications

December 9, 2015

A small molecule that can be added to the drinking water of mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is shown to break down amyloid-beta deposits in the animals’ brains, a Nature Communications paper finds. Further studies are required to determine whether the findings will translate to the clinic and to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the new treatment.

One of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of amyloid-beta fragments in a patient’s brain. These sticky proteins clump together to form ‘plaques’ and may contribute to brain cell damage. Many novel Alzheimer’s treatments try to stop these plaques from forming, but removing pre-existing plaques is difficult.

YoungSoo Kim and colleagues run a series of experiments with 8 to 11 mice per group, and find that a small molecule, EPPS, when added to the drinking water of mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, breaks down plaques in the animals’ brains. The treatment is also shown to improve learning and memory problems in the mice.

The same molecule has been reported previously, but this is the first time it has been shown to treat dementia-like symptoms in a living animal. Although the mechanism through which EPPS clears amyloid plaques is not yet understood, this finding may help in the development of new clinical treatments for different stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms9997

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