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Early clinical treatment can halt progression of Alzheimer's disease, UCI researchers find

Irvine, Calif. -- UC Irvine neurobiologists have provided the first evidence that early clinical treatment of brain lesions can halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Working on genetically modified mice, the researchers found that using specific antibodies to clear a certain type of brain lesion reversed abnormalities arising from a second type of brain lesion, which halted the progression of the disease. Researchers also found that the earlier the treatment begins, the better the chances of success findings that have similar implications for people, emphasizing the need for better means of early diagnosis and treatment of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The findings are reported in the Aug. 5 issue of Neuron.

"Current estimates indicate that by the middle of the century, 20 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer's disease," said Frank LaFerla, associate professor of neurobiology and behavior and head of the research team. "Our results have direct implications for the clinical treatment of this insidious disease."

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease and the most common cause of dementia among the elderly in the United States, affecting 4.5-5 million adults — 10 times more than those affected by Parkinson's disease. The disease is marked by the accumulation of two distinct brain lesions — beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Both plaques and tangles accumulate in specific brain regions critical to learning and memory.

It is believed that their accumulation contributes to the destruction of brain cells and the eventual loss of memory. The belief among many neuroscientists that the accumulation of amyloid plaques is the initiating trigger of the disease process constitutes the "amyloid cascade hypothesis" a controversial theory in neuroscience. By showing that the progression of Alzheimer's can be stopped by early treatment of the plaques, the new findings strongly support the h
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@uci.edu
949-824-3969
University of California - Irvine
4-Aug-2004


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