The polymer also holds potential as a marker for diagnosing the disease in live subjects, according to the researchers. Currently, the disease is definitively diagnosed only upon autopsy.
"This is the first time anyone has tried this novel approach using a biomimetic polymer to fight Alzheimer's," says study leader Theresa Good, Ph.D., a chemist with the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Unlike most current drugs designed to treat Alzheimer's, this compound attempts to target one of the underlying causes of the disease rather than just the symptoms. "Of course, there is a long way to go before one can use these molecules in the human body, but so far, in vitro studies look promising, not only from a therapeutic point of view, but also from a diagnostics one."
Alzheimer's is a chronic, incurable form of dementia that primarily strikes the elderly and causes severe memory loss and eventually, death. A complex disease with many probable causes, it is most often characterized by the presence of senile plaques and tangles in the brain, which are seen upon autopsy.
These senile plaques contain beta amyloid protein, a protein that is formed in the brain and other cells throughout the body but, for reasons that are not entirely clear, seems to accumulate in the brain of Alzheimer's victims rather than elsewhere in the body. Researchers believe there are many different forms of beta amyloid ci