(CBS Local) — Researchers in Ohio have made a major breakthrough in the fight to cure Alzheimer’s disease. A team at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have completely reversed the disease in experiments on mice.
Scientists say that gradually reducing an enzyme called BACE1 reversed the formation of harmful plaque in the brain, improving each mouse’s mental function. Amyloid plaques in the brain disrupt the function of neural synapses and is one of the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients.
“To our knowledge, this is the first observation of such a dramatic reversal of amyloid deposition in any study of Alzheimer’s disease mouse models,” researcher Riqiang Yan said in a press release. Yan and his team found that BACE1 was responsible for the production of the debilitating plaques however, it also aided several critical functions of the brain.
The study, published in Journal of Experimental Medicine, warns that completely eliminating BACE1 from the mice at birth caused severe neurological side-effects. The breakthrough came when scientists focused on slowly removing the enzyme in older subjects. Eventually, the mice that developed Alzheimer’s at 75 days old had their BACE1 levels reduced over time until there was no sign of amyloid plaques in the brain at 10 months old.
The scientists hope their research will someday produce drugs which target the enzyme in human brains. “Our data show that BACE1 inhibitors have the potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease patients without unwanted toxicity,” Yan added.