A treatment that could block the development of Alzheimer’s disease is being investigated by researchers at Lancaster University
It’s usually used to send targeted drug treatment to cancer cells, but now researchers are looking into whether using microscopic droplets of fat to carry drugs into the brain could also be applied to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study published last week in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, scientists tested mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease with a treatment using nanoliposomes. They’re tiny droplets of fat which are coated in protein fragments that are able to stop amyloid protein accumulating into plaques. Amyloid plaques are the toxic clumps of protein that caused damage to brains cells in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The mice that were treated with the nanoliposomes were able to recover their long-term memory and recognise familiar objects after a 24-hour period. Those that received the placebo treatment had no memory of objects they’d seen the day before.
Nanoliposomes are already used to better target toxic chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells. Recent studies have also shown that the fat droplets can pass directly into the brain through the nose, opening up the possibility of using a nasal spray to administer treatments for brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Professor David Allsop, lead researcher on the study, said:
‘Following results this summer, there is renewed optimism for antibody drugs – treatments that harness the body’s immune system to target amyloid plaques. However if these prove successful, treatments will have to be administered in a clinic by an IV drip and could have some potentially harmful side effects.
‘Using nanoliposomes offers an alternative way to inhibit the toxic build-up of amyloid plaques without activating an immune response in the brain. Our hope is that this could one day be administered by something as simple and non-invasive as a nasal spray, which patients could use in the comfort of their own home.’
Commenting on the need for innovative approaches to dementia treatments, Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘With no new dementia drugs in nearly 15 years, we’re at a critical time for dementia research. It’s absolutely vital we continue to sniff-out new approaches to getting drugs into the brain. While we wait in anticipation for the results of ongoing clinical trials, Alzheimer’s Society will continue to fund innovative research to tackle dementia head-on.
‘Nanotechnology is promising great benefits to people with many different types of cancer, and it’s exciting that it could one day offer the same hope to people with the most common form of dementia.’
For more information on different treatments for dementia symptoms, click here.