Targeting brain protein could halt progression of Alzheimer's

A protein that stimulates the brain to wake up could hold the key to preventative Alzheimer's treatments, an animal study suggests.

Alzheimer's: brain cell showing signs of disease (Photo: Science Photo Library)
Alzheimer's: brain cell showing signs of disease (Photo: Science Photo Library)

A mouse-model study conducted by US researchers suggests that targeting orexin, a neurotransmitter that helps rouse the brain from sleep, could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease in patients who have problems sleeping.

Sleep loss is known to contribute to the growth of brain plaques, early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

They accumulate in the brain ahead of the onset of the more severe symptoms, such as memory loss. Scientists hope that by slowing or stopping this build-up, they can put a halt on the disease.

In the latest study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers bred genetically-modified mice lacking the gene for producing orexin with those predisposed to developing brain plaques.

Brain plaques halved

The offspring slept for longer and developed only half as many brain plaques as their predisposed parents who had the orexin protein, suggesting that higher levels of the neurotransmitter contribute to producing more brain plaques.

When the scientists reversed the experiment, and looked at mice with artificially increased orexin levels, the mice stayed awake longer and developed more Alzheimer's-like plaques.

Lead author Dr David Holtzman said: ‘This indicates we should be looking hard at orexin as a potential target for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

‘Blocking orexin to increase sleep in patients with sleep abnormalities, or perhaps even to improve sleep efficiency in healthy people, may be a way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. This is important to explore further.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Flu surge drives up pressure on general practice

Flu surge drives up pressure on general practice

GP consultations for flu have spiked over the past two weeks, taking levels of the...

General election 2019: five GPs elected as three lose seats

General election 2019: five GPs elected as three lose seats

Five GPs have been elected to parliament, while three high-profile GPs lost their...

What does the 2019 general election result mean for GPs?

What does the 2019 general election result mean for GPs?

General practice is struggling with a workforce in decline, rising demand and a share...

Practices report falling private fees income for second year running

Practices report falling private fees income for second year running

A third of GP practices have seen their income from private and professional fees...

New average fees released for GP private and professional work

New average fees released for GP private and professional work

GP practices can update their prices for non-NHS services following the publication...

Why manifesto promises of more GPs may not make general practice safer

Why manifesto promises of more GPs may not make general practice safer

Politicians of all stripes have promised more GPs during the general election campaign,...