Alzheimer’s Disease Research – Targeting Amyloid Beta Protein

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 21, 2015

Development of plaques and tangles in the brain lead to the characteristic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Contributor: Dennis Selkoe MD, Co-Director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases in the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Long before a person begins to exhibit Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, he or she will build up plaques in the brain composed of the amyloid beta protein. Shortly after the initial development of plaques, tangles, made up of the tau protein, also will build up in the brain. The plaques and tangles together mount up over decades, leading to a short-circuiting of nerve cells in the brain and the characteristic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Studying the Role of Amyloid Beta Protein

Since the 1980s, Dr. Selkoe and his colleagues have been gathering data to support the Amyloid Hypothesis, in which he proposed that Alzheimer’s disease begins with the build-up of amyloid beta protein in “thinking regions” of the brain.

In 1992, Dr. Selkoe and colleagues made a surprising discovery – the amyloid beta protein is made by everyone throughout life. This discovery raised the question – why doesn’t everyone get Alzheimer’s disease? BWH researchers found that certain genetic and environmental factors can make some people susceptible to greater amyloid buildup and the subsequent development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, several pharmaceutical companies are developing treatments which  use antibodies that target amyloid beta protein in the brain. Promising clinical trial results  of these antibodies suggest that an anti-amyloid treatment for Alzheimer’s disease may be available to patients within a few years.Researchers also are studying whether earlier treatment with anti-amyloid antibodies and other agents may help slow or even halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease before patients become symptomatic.

Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?

The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) Study is the first prevention trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The A4 Study, created and led by Reisa Sperling, MD, Director of the BWH Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART), is currently enrolling patients at many sites in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. These still cognitively normal subjects at risk for AD will be followed over years to see whether an anti-amyloid antibody can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease in patients who show evidence of amyloid beta protein in their brains on a PET scan, but who are not yet experiencing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

In the following video, Dr. Selkoe describes progress on research to develop and characterize treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that target the amyloid beta protein:


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– Jamie R.

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Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases – New Home for Medical Advances

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 6, 2015

The Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases will soon move to the Brigham Building for the Future.

Today, more than 50 million people worldwide suffer from complex neurologic diseases. In recent years, however, researchers have made significant advances in their understanding of these conditions. To leverage this progress, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has developed the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases. Led by Co-Directors Howard L. Weiner, MD, and Dennis J. Selkoe, MD, the Center is a collaborative, global effort designed to accelerate treatment, prevention, and cures for five of the world’s most complex neurologic diseases – multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors.

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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 13, 2014

Alzheimer's

The number of Alzheimer’s patients is likely to triple in the next 20-30 years, as people are living longer lives.

It is estimated that some 30 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. In the United States, over five million Americans, or one in nine, suffer from dementia in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Estimates say that the number of Alzheimer’s patients is likely to triple in the next 20-30 years, as people are living longer lives.

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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 17, 2013

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New Approaches for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Reisa Sperling believes that earlier treatment, prior to development of symptoms, is key to helping people with Alzheimer’s disease. This approach is consistent with how we’ve made progress against other diseases, such as reducing cholesterol to prevent heart disease. Learn how Dr. Sperling is applying this approach to Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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Thanks to some intercontinental teamwork, researchers have identified a gene that may help explain why certain Alzheimer’s disease patients experience a more rapid decline in cognitive (thinking) abilities.

 

 

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Food for Thought: Learning New Activities May Delay Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 1, 2013

Keeping your mind active can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Keeping your mind active, exercising, and spending social time with family and friends have been suggested as ways to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results of a new study led by Dr. Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, now provide scientific reasons for why a mentally stimulating environment, which includes learning new activities, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a protein called amyloid beta accumulates and forms plaques in the brain. Amyloid beta build-up is thought to cause memory problems by interfering with brain activity that occurs in the synapses, the spaces between nerve cells that allow communication of information. This interference may lead to a decline in a person’s memory, attention, and the ability to learn, understand, and process information.

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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 27, 2013

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Alzheimer’s disease robs us of our most precious possessions — our memories.  And, like a robbery in the middle of the night, the theft can take place without us realizing it. Dr. Dennis Selkoe, Co-Director, Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and Dr. Reisa Sperling, Director of the BWH Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment, recently shared their insights into the latest medical research on Alzheimer’s disease at a lecture sponsored by the McCourt Foundation.

“Current therapies often provide patients with some symptomatic relief for a short period of time, however, none of these treatments slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Sperling. “With nearly 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 each day, the search for new Alzheimer disease treatments has intensified.”

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