Researchers at the University of Glasgow and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have discovered a protein that could become the foundation of Alzheimer’s disease treatment. In the study, injections of a protein called IL-33 were able to reverse cognitive decline in mice by "digesting" the brain plaque build up that is the hallmark of the disease.
The IL-33 protein triggers the brain’s immunity defense cells to surround the amyloid plaques and tangles that clog the brain’s neuropathways and dissolve them. The protein’s actions also reduce inflammation, thereby reducing the chances of new tangles and plaques forming, the study showed. "We found that injection of IL-33 into aged APP/PS1 mice rapidly improved their memory and cognitive function to that of the age-matched normal mice within a week," noted Prof. Eddy Liew, the study’s co-director, in a University of Glasgow release.
But the research has a long way to go to move from mice to humans, the researchers say. "Exciting as it is, there is some distance between laboratory findings and clinical applications," Liew adds. "There have been enough false 'breakthroughs' in the medical field to caution us not to hold our breath until rigorous clinical trials have been done. We are just about entering Phase I clinical trial to test the toxicity of IL-33 at the doses used. Nevertheless, this is a good start."
Results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.