Summary: The new study found that by whole blood exchange of a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease with the blood of normal, healthy mice, they significantly reduced the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain and improved memory. The exact mechanism is unclear, but the researchers suggest it may involve amyloid-beta mobilization from the brain to the blood. The findings suggest that there may be a target for treating Alzheimer’s disease in the peripheral circulation, which could open new ways of treating the disease.
Alzheimer’s is now among the top ten leading causes of disability and premature death in the US. Regretfully, it is also the condition that has perplexed researchers for a long. More than 100 years of extensive research have failed to produce an effective treatment for the condition.
Of course, there are medications that may provide some relief and reduce the severity of the condition. Nonetheless, there isn’t any medical treatment that may significantly alter the course of the disease.
Even the latest drug called Leqembi (lecanemab-irmb), approved in 2022 by US FDA, has become a subject of controversy due to its limited benefits.
What is even more worrisome is that science does not fully understand the cause of the disease and how it progresses.
All researchers know is faulty or misfolded amyloid protein accumulates in the brain cells due to multiple factors. Higher accumulation of this protein accelerates the death of brain cells. This loss of brain cells in a progressive decline in cognition.
Hence, most treatments these days focus on reducing the accumulation of amyloid proteins in the brain. Studies suggest that reducing the accumulation of amyloid protein may slow down the disease’s progress.
One way of reducing the accumulation of these faulty proteins is by cleaning the blood or removing certain toxins from the blood using well-known methods like plasmapheresis or regular blood dialysis. Now a new study shows that this simple method may help considerably slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s.
In the new study, researchers looked at a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with a high level of a protein called amyloid-beta (Aβ) in the brain, which is believed to play a significant role in the development of AD. They found that by whole blood exchange of the mice with AD with blood from normal, healthy mice, they significantly reduced the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain by 40-80%.
This reduction in plaques also led to an improvement in the spatial memory of the mice with AD. The researchers are not sure exactly how this blood exchange is able to reduce the plaques and improve memory, but they think it may have something to do with Aβ moving from the brain to the blood. This suggests that there may be a target for treating AD in the peripheral circulation, which could lead to new ways of treating the disease.
Though this study is just a proof of concept, but it provides an exciting direction for future studies.
Till now, studies have focused extensively on removing amyloid protein from the brain or reducing its accumulation. However, they have faced one significant barrier: the blood-brain barrier, since many drugs are simply not able to enter the brain in sufficient amounts to work.
Additionally, trying to reduce amyloid protein in the brain has not produced satisfactory results.
But, this new study shows that researchers might have been working in the wrong direction. Thus, instead of the brain, they need to focus on circulation. They need to identify factors in the blood circulation that lead to amyloid protein accumulation in the brain. Or factors in the blood that might help remove amyloid protein accumulated in the brain.
Of course, one of the possible ways in which whole blood exchange works is logical,
as the blood from healthy adults does not contain certain factors promoting amyloid protein accumulation.
However, it is pretty likely that these benefits may be due to other reasons. For example,
it could be due to the presence or even absence of some other kinds of proteins in the whole blood that helped mice living with Alzheimer’s.
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