The hope for Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases was found in a drug compound. Researchers revealed that a molecule called antisense oligonucleotide could potentially lead to a new Alzheimer's treatment. The said molecule could halt or even reverse neurological damage by regulating the levels of tau proteins in the brain.
Tau proteins are abundant in neurons. They are linked to various neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, dementia and Parkinson's disease. Excessive levels or abnormal phosphorylation of tau proteins can lead to toxic tangles that can damage or kill brain cells. Controlling tau levels gives promise to new Alzheimer's treatment.
In a study published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday, Jan. 25, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis revealed that tau levels can be reduced with the use of antisense oligonucleotide -- a molecule which interferes in building proteins. This would halt Alzheimer's-related symptoms and even reverse damages caused by tau.
The researchers tested the effects of the compound on mice with mutant form of human tau. The 9-month-old mice which exhibits neurological damages were given a dose of anti-tau oligonucleotide every day for a period of one month. Results revealed that the tau levels were reduced. They also highlighted that the tau tangles in the treated 12-month-old mice were significantly lower than when the mice were 9 months old, which means, the tangles were reversed.
"We've shown that this molecule lowers levels of the tau protein, preventing and, in some cases, reversing the neurological damage," Timothy Miller, MD, PhD, senior author of the study said according to a press release from Washington University. He added that this is the first compound that showed results of reversing tau related damages. However, there are no signs of reversing neurons that are already dead.
The team also used the compound to monkeys which also delivered favorable results. Miller added that they need to study whether the compound would be effective in humans, but the current finding gives potential to the development of new methods to battle neurological diseases which may lead to more effective Alzheimer's treatment. Clinical trials to use oligonucleotides on human patients are currently underway.