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A new type of gene therapy to potentially retain memory in Alzheimer’s Disease patients is being tested on mouse models. The new treatment method is documented in a study by scientists from the University of California.

How Alzheimer’s affects the brain

Alzheimer’s Disease affects people, especially senior citizens, due to accumulated masses of proteins called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tau tangles. These handicap cell signaling and end in neuronal death. The currently available Alzheimer’s treatments target tangles and plaques, which only address the symptoms of the disease.

The scientists recommend that a good treatment for Alzheimer’s requires a combination of interventional remedies that reduce aggregation toxins and increase neuronal and synaptic plasticity.

Their recommended gene therapy method includes targeted treatment on some parts of the brain that would safeguard, retain or bring back neural functions. The method can also reverse the neurodegenerative effects of the disease.

The researchers used a harmless adeno- associated viral vector to conduct the gene therapy for the study. Synapsin-Caveolin, the vector, was introduced directly into the hippocampus region of the brain in mice that had three-month-old Alzheimer’s Disease.

The mice were genetically modified to exhibit learning and memory loss at 9 and 11 months. This memory and learning shortages were occasioned by reduced levels of Caveolin- 1, the protein responsible for creating membranes that hold signaling tools. These tools include neurotrophin receptors which accommodate necessary extracellular signals that determine cellular capabilities and life. Damaged membranes would cause cell dysfunction and neurodegeneration.

The scientists aimed to put the SynCav1 gene therapy to the test on the Alzheimer’s Disease infected mice models. Specifically, they wanted to see if gene therapy would keep neuronal and synaptic plasticity in the targeted brain areas.

What findings showed

Study findings revealed that such plasticity was retained after one injection of AAV-SynCav1 to the mouse’s hippocampus. In Alzheimer’s, the hippocampus is often the most affected area of the brain.

At 9 and 11 months, the scientists explained that hippocampal learning and memory were retained. Additionally, the researchers also discovered that essential membrane structures also remained intact.