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Alzheimer's disease; new approach, new possibilities?

Antwerp, Belgium Scientists from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) associated with the University of Antwerp have achieved a new breakthrough in their research on the origins of Alzheimer's disease. Their alternative approach opens up new prospects for developing a treatment which can slow the disease's progress. The researchers have shown that 'the plaques' which form in the brain of patients are linked to damage to nearby blood vessels. Leakage appears to occur between the blood vessels and the brain, as a result of which the plaques develop and the disease manifests itself. This research is published today in the 'American Journal of Pathology'.

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative disease that gradually and progressively destroys brain cells, affects between 50% and 70% of all dementia patients and is therefore the major form of dementia. About 100,000 people suffer from this disease in Belgium. The damage caused to memory and mental functioning makes it one of today's most frightening syndromes. In particular, the first realization of the loss of any sense of reality is extremely difficult to accept. So, science continues to search feverishly for ways to treat the disease.

The formation of plaques plays a key role

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by an increasing deposit of the amyloid-β protein in the brain. The accumulation of this protein results in 'plaques'; deposits which settle in the brain cells responsible for memory and observation. How the plaques develop is the key in the search for a treatment. Samir Kumar-Singh and his colleagues on a team headed by Christine Van Broeckhoven have unraveled how certain plaques are formed. In various mouse models, they demonstrate that the plaques attach primarily onto the blood vessels. The vessels show clear structural damage, so that the strictly-controlled separation between blood vessels and brain is compromised
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Contact: Ann Van Gysel
ann.vangysel@vib.be
32-92-446-611
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology
27-Jul-2005


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