The Covid-19 pandemic and the extensive research being conducted worldwide during this health crisis have shed new light on Alzheimer's disease. From increased vulnerability to the virus to immunological treatment approaches, here's what you need to know about the coronavirus and Alzheimer's patients.
At present, there is no treatment available to combat the proliferation and toxicity of the two proteins, TAU and beta-amyloid, responsible for the characteristic brain cell degeneration in Alzheimer's disease. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have recently demonstrated in a study reported by Santé Log, a healthcare professional news site, that the solution might lie in immunotherapy. This approach has been explored in the past by various research centers, including some teams at Inserm. Immunotherapy, whose effectiveness has already been proven in oncology and autoimmune diseases, could play a crucial role in neurodegenerative diseases, thanks in part to a molecule from the immune system that reduces inflammation in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. This molecule, called interleukin-2 (IL-2), was tested on mice, and the results showed an improvement in amyloid "burden" and "memory deficits."
Another study conducted on 856 participants with mild Alzheimer's disease examined the effects of the molecule BAN2401, an antibody designed to eliminate amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. After an 18-month period during which several groups were tested, the study results revealed that the group receiving the highest dose of antibodies experienced a slowdown in cognitive decline due to the elimination of amyloid plaques by the molecule.
The recent study by researchers at the University of Cambridge focused on developing antibodies capable of recognizing the two toxic proteins implicated in Alzheimer's disease. These antibodies could open new avenues for therapy and diagnostic methods by providing an effective quantitative approach to identifying the toxic proteins responsible for the disease. The antibody to be patented by Cambridge Enterprise offers hope for new drug pathways and clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease.
Another discovery during the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed the connection between Alzheimer's disease and the immune system. These are the findings of a British study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter and Connecticut. The study revealed that Alzheimer's patients might be more susceptible to exposure to the coronavirus and are at greater risk of developing a severe form of the disease. This increased vulnerability is attributed to the presence of the Alzheimer's gene in them, which acts as an aggravating factor for Covid-19. While the causes of Alzheimer's disease involve environmental and genetic factors, this gene is responsible for the hereditary forms of Alzheimer's disease, which are more common in patients under 65 years of age, leading to early-onset Alzheimer's.
The study analyzed data from 500,000 participants and was published in the journal Gerontology Medical Science. "This study suggests that this increased risk may not simply be due to the effects of dementia, age, frailty, or exposure to the virus, but could be partly related to this underlying genotype, which both raises the risk of dementia and of covid-19," explained Professor David Melzer, the study's author.
The implication of this gene means that this vulnerability may also affect individuals who have not yet developed dementia but carry the gene. While these results urge us to be particularly cautious to prevent our Alzheimer's-afflicted loved ones from coming into contact with Covid-19, especially during the deconfinement period, they may also aid in Alzheimer's disease research, as this gene is linked to the immune system.
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