Alzheimer's Therapy Helps Prevent Neuronal Degradation

First Posted: Feb 13, 2015 01:36 PM EST

Medical research shows that patients with Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, simultaneously suffer from an early breakdown of cholinergic nerve cells that promote both cell growth and survival.

Researchers at the Karolinska Instiutet have examined a potential therapy that could help patients receive an implant that stimulates the growth of a certain type of nerve cell.

For the study, researchers attempted to directly introduce NGF into the brains of Alzheimer's patients. NGF-producing cell capsules were placed in the basal fore-brain where the cholinergic cells could reside with precision stereotactic surgery. These capsules work to release NGF that's surrounding cells in order to prevent further degredation.

To determine if the NGF release had any effect on the cholinergic nerve cells, researchers examined the presence of markers used to show the functioning of cholinergic cells, which includes acetylcholine that produces an enzyme called ChAT that's located on both the inside and outside of the cells.

"Our results show that when the patients received NGF, there was a significant increase in ChAT in the CSF," said Dr Taher Darreh-Shori, one of the researchers involved in the study, in a news release. "The patients that exhibited this increase were also those that responded best to the treatment. Our PET scans also showed an increase in cholinergic cell activity and metabolism in the brain."

Furthermore, researchers found quickened memory impairment over time when compared to individuals who were not treated.

"The results are promising, but must be treated with circumspection as only a few patients participated in the study," added principal investigator Professor Maria Eriksdotter. "So our findings will have to be substantiated in a larger controlled study using more patients."

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.

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