in Chile and Spain have identified a new approach
for the possible treatment of Alzheimer's disease
that they say has the potential to destroy beta-amyloid
fibrils and plaque -- hypothesized to contribute
to the mental decline of Alzheimer's patients. The
researchers say the new technique, which they call
a type of "molecular surgery," could halt or slow
the disease's progress without harming healthy brain
cells. The research is scheduled for publication
in the Jan. 11 issue of the American Chemical Society's
Nano Letters .
Using test tube studies, the scientists attached
gold nanoparticles to a group of beta amyloid fibrils,
incubated the resulting mixture for several days
and then exposed it to weak microwave fields for
several hours. The energy levels of the fields were
six times smaller than that of conventional cell
phones and unlikely to harm healthy cells, the researchers
say. The fibrils subsequently dissolved and remained
dissolved for at least one week after being irradiated,
indicating that the treatment was not only effective
at breaking up the fibrils but also resulted in a
lower tendency of the proteins to re-aggregate, according
to the researchers.
The same approach also holds promise for treating
other neurodegenerative diseases that involve protein
aggregation, including Parkinson's and Huntington's,
says study leader Marcelo J. Kogan, of the University
of Chile in Santiago. He says that the approach is
similar to that of another experimental technique
that uses metallic nanoparticles to label and destroy
cancer cells. Animal studies are planned, Kogan says.
There's currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease
and no one is sure of its exact causes. The disease
affects an estimated 4.5 million people in the United
States, according to the National Institute on Aging.
That figure is expected to rise dramatically as the
population ages, experts predict.
The American Chemical Society — the world's largest
scientific society — is a nonprofit organization
chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader
in providing access to chemistry-related research
through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals
and scientific conferences. Its main offices are
in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society