News / Health

Antibody Therapy Clears Destructive Alzheimer’s Brain Plaques

This undated image provided by Merck & Co., shows a cross section of a normal brain (right) and one of a brain damaged by advanced Alzheimer's disease, December 3, 2012
This undated image provided by Merck & Co., shows a cross section of a normal brain (right) and one of a brain damaged by advanced Alzheimer's disease, December 3, 2012
Jessica Berman
Scientists say they've developed a type of disease-fighting antibody that, in tests with laboratory mice, is able to clear away the destructive brain plaques, or protein deposits, believed to cause Alzheimer’s Disease.  Researchers note that while several experimental drugs have shown promise in preventing plaque development, this new antibody therapy is the first to successfully remove existing plaques, suggesting a possible treatment for Alzheimer's patients. 

By the time most people visit their doctors complaining of serious memory problems and cognitive decline, experts say their brains very likely are already riddled with sticky deposits of amyloid beta protein. These plaques are the hallmark of Alzheimer's, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that eventually leads to disability and death. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, in 2010 there were an estimated 35.6 million people around the world suffering from various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at drug maker Eli Lilly report their experimental antibody therapy binds to and literally sweeps away existing plaques in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s.  Their new antibody is part of a trend in so-called immunotherapy in which the body's immune system proteins, or antibodies, can be engineered to target and disable specific disease-causing molecules.

In Eli Lilly's neurodegenerative section, Ronald DeMattos works on new therapies to treat and prevent Alzheimer's disease. “What we’ve been able to demonstrate is that by treatment with this antibody that is very specific to binding to this deposited sticky material… we’re actually able to remove pre-existing clumps or plaque material,” he explained.

In a healthy brain, the protein beta amyloid is normally broken down and eliminated by the body.  But in people with Alzheimer’s, the dissolvable proteins accumulate and form hardened plaques.

Researchers theorize that water-soluble beta amyloid washes over existing plaques, interfering with therapeutic attempts to eliminate the buildup.

Instead of genetically engineering a drug that targeted all of the beta amyloid in an experimental group of mice bred to have Alzheimer’s disease, DeMattos and colleagues developed an antibody that attached to and eliminated only the hardened plaque deposits.

“The antibody is meant literally to enter the brain and help one’s own body facilitate the removal of this deposited plaque material.  And it’s our hope that by doing so, we can hopefully mitigate some of the cognitive deficits that are attributed to the disease,”
DeMattos said.

But it remains to be seen, DeMattos says, whether elimination of hardened Alzheimer’s plaques leads to memory improvements or stops the cognitive decline associated with the disease.

Alzhiemer’s patients typically begin to develop beta amyloid deposits ten or more years before they are diagnosed, according to DeMattos, who says the ultimate goal would be to treat individuals before they develop signs of the disease.

An article on a new antibody therapy for Alzheimer’s disease is published in the journal Neuron.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

New Yellow Fever Research May Lead to Improved Treatment

Researchers identify features of disease that may lead to more effective treatment More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid