By Ursula Biba
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have altered the way health care professionals treat and think about Alzheimer’s through their discovery of a pill that may prevent or delay the disease’s progression. Although it’s known that degenerative neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia, are caused by protein accumulation in the brain, many treatments adopt down-stream approaches that focus on how to improve patient health in the final stages of the disease. In an effort led by Dr. Huda Zoghbi at Baylor, scientists are studying the progression of Alzheimer’s in its early stages—and have discovered a possible upstream approach to treating the disease. As Alzheimer’s is caused by an abnormal accumulation of the tau protein in the brain, Zoghbi and colleagues have discovered the inhibition of Nuak1, an enzyme which lowers tau levels in human cells, fruit flies and mice. The Zoghbi team is now in the process of developing new treatments to keep tau levels low, and are currently focused on developing a drug that patients can take as a pill to inhibit Nuak1. Though some are skeptical, Zoghbi compares the relationship of tau and Alzheimer’s to that of cholesterol and cardiovascular disease to prove its efficacy: taking drugs to lower cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease, just like taking drugs to lower tau levels would reduce the risk of the development and progression of Alzheimer’s. Zoghbi urges health care professionals to challenge their pre-conceived notions of Alzheimer’s and similar degenerative diseases, and has hope in the development of a drug to improve patient outcomes and stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.
Baylor College of Medicine. “New strategy to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161022161902.htm>