Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has identified a possible way to stop the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's, and has shown substantial promise with mice models. Here's how it works.
The treatment uses antibodies to target one specific (and aptly named) protein called Dickkopf-1 (Dkk1). See, one of the characteristics of Alzheimer's disease abnormally high deposits in the brain of the protein Amyloid-ß — which is linked to damage to the synapses. Patients with Alzheimer's have increased levels of Dkk1 in their brains. The researchers believe that Amyloid-ß causes the production of Dkk1, which is what dismantles the synapses in the hippocampus, damaging your memory.
By looking at brain slices of mice, the researchers were able to track the state of the mice's synapses, both in animals exposed to Amyloid-ß, and those also treated with specific Dkk1 antibodies. The treatment protected the brains, and resulted in no synaptic disintegration.
Now, it's a long road between mice and humans, and this won't serve to help anyone who has already suffered from the disease. But it does potentially reveal some of Alzheimer's mechanisms, and potentially, when combined with early warnings, may be able to prevent cognitive decline before it starts.