Research highlight

Neurotrophins to the rescue

Nature Medicine

February 9, 2009

Scientists have identified a possible treatment in rodent and primate models linked to Alzheimer's disease, according to a paper online this week in Nature Medicine.

BDNF - brain derived neurotrophic factor - is a protein thought to be important in long term memory. Previous studies have shown possible links between reduced levels of this protein in the brain and Alzheimer's, which is characterized by accumulation of toxic proteins, neuron death, and cognitive dysfunction.

While no one animal model replicates all of these features, Mark Tuszynski and colleagues show that BDNF blocks neuron death in rat and primate brain lesion models, and cognitive dysfunction in aging rats and primates. In a genetic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, BDNF administration after disease onset restored cognitive function without affecting toxic protein accumulation.

These findings suggest that BDNF could be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, or in combination with drugs that prevent toxic protein formation and aggregation.

doi: 10.1038/nm.1912

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