Caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer's disease can be a distressing and disheartening experience. We not only see the signs of this disease take over the lives of our loved ones, but also see how it influences everyone involved. No one is immune. Feelings of uncertainty, grief, and anguish are shared among relatives, friends, and members of our social communities.
For anyone touched by Alzheimer's disease, we hope for better treatments and long lasting therapies. Others hope for a better understanding of the disease's complexity. The results of a new study on memory loss in Alzheimer's puts us closer to these hopes.
WHAT WE KNOW
Alzheimer's research is ongoing. Doctors tell us the disease damages the brain by killing its nerve cells or neurons. The disease also disrupts how neurons send messages throughout the brain.
Scientists estimate a healthy adult brain has one billion neurons and one trillion neurotransmitters. The neurons create the neuron forest, a vast network of neuron activity happening throughout the brain. The neuron forest is made up of electrical charges, chemical signals, and neurotransmitters, which are chemical impulses that send signals to other cells.
All of this neuron activity in the neuron forest helps the brain create thoughts, make memories, and form feelings. However, Alzheimer's disease slowly destroys the neuron forest, chipping away at the brain's cognitive functions. As the disease advances in the brain, neurons die and brain tissue is damaged.
Alzheimer's brain tissue shows a buildup of unwanted proteins called plaque and tangles. Plaque is sticky and gathers in between neurons. Tangles gnarl up inside neurons. Plaque and tangles build up on and in neurons, disrupting its activity and draining its vitality. Over time, the brain shrinks, and our loved ones are robbed of their reasoning and memory.
WHAT WE DISCOVERED
The latest discovery puts us a step closer to developing more effective treatment for this devitalizing disease. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation in May, research findings showed advanced symptoms of Alzheimer's had been reversed from a specific treatment.
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital - The Neuro of McGill University and at Université de Montréal treated Alzheimer's mice with a special molecule and observed its effects for several weeks. They noted how this molecule inhibited or blocked a brain receptor associated with neuron inflammation. This receptor that causes neuroinflammation is the bradykinin B1 receptor or B1R.
What researchers discovered was improvements in learning, blood vessel functioning, and memory when they blocked the inflammatory properties of B1R in Alzheimer's mice. Researchers also found that plaque levels, the protein buildup on neurons, decreased more than 50% in these mice.
Lead investigator of the study and neuroscientist Dr. Edith Hamel told McGill University, "the exciting and important aspect of this study is that even animals with advanced pathology can be rescued with this molecule." This is a promising discovery for anyone touched by the disease.
WHAT THE RESULTS MEAN FOR THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY
The results show conclusive evidence that by treating inflamed nerve cells in the brain, some symptoms of Alzheimer's can be reversed.
Specifically, neuro researchers point to the following three results from the study, made possible by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Result #1: Neuro researchers have identified the bradykinin B1 receptor as having a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Result #2: Neuro researchers have identified neuroinflammation as playing a role in how the disease progresses in the brain.
Result #3: Neuro researchers have considered how further research with B1R inhibitor molecules could lead to new treatments for people with Alzheimer's.
WHAT THE RESULTS MEAN FOR US AND OUR LOVED ONES
We know the results of this study are promising. However, how promising are they, especially when we continue to cope and our loved ones' memories continue to slip away?
The results of this study do not point to a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Yet, the results bring us a step closer to understanding how the disease begins and advances. For some of us, this is an answer that helps us better approach how we deal with the disease affecting our loved ones.
We are also a step closer to providing our loved ones with better treatment so they can get back what the disease has taken from them like precious memories. For many of us, that is all we hope for.
You can find a link to the study entitled, "Cognitive and cerebrovascular improvements following bradykinin B1 receptor blockade in Alzheimer's disease mice" here.