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Science, Health, Tech

DSU neuroscientist part of the search to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease

DukeMicroglia_small.jpg
Carol Colton lab, Duke University
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Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Among the top ten causes of death in the United States, it’s the only cause that can’t be cured, slowed or prevented, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

But scientists now are making significant strides in figuring out what’s behind the disease. For years, researchers have targeted the overabundance of two type of proteins that tend to exist in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s -- they’re known as “tangles” and “plaques.”

Last week, a new study from Duke University showed promising results in approaching Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers there harnessed particular cells in the immune system, called microalgia. In Alzheimer's patients, microalgia has depleted a vital nutrient known as arginine. In stopping these microalgia cells from eating up arginine, researchers saw this led to a major reduction of symptoms, such as memory loss, in laboratory mice. It’s one of several significant efforts scientists now are making to find a solution to this mysterious and destructive disease.

Michael Gitcho, a neuroscientist at DSU, is also currently focusing on another promising target -- a protein called TDP-43, which also has an influence on these plaques and tangles. But he says the challenge lies with figuring out how much influence these targets have on these structures.

“There’s a fine line between what we need to activate and what we need to suppress in this disease," said Gitcho.

 

Gitcho received a $100,000 grant from the Alzheimer's Association in the spring of 2014 to investigate the disease at DSU. He feels that the efforts to develop a drug are becoming more imperative as more people become affected by this disease. His mother, now deceased, had Alzheimer’s.

 

“I’m just very dedicated to this because I’m getting older now and my children will get older eventually, and I don’t want them to be affected by this.”

 
 

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