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Research by Irish scientist leads to a possible Alzheimer treatment


Scientists may have made a breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's

Scientists may have made a breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's

Scientists may have made a breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's

A new class of anti-Alzheimer’s drugs capable of stopping or even reversing the devastating form of dementia are possible thanks to breakthrough research by an Irish scientist.

Some think if we can design the right drugs, people could be taking them from their 30s forwards, as it’s a very slow-moving disease,” said Professor David O’Connell, of the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science at University College Dublin (UCD) and part of the team that published findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

At least 50m people are believed to be living with Alzheimer’s or some type of dementia globally. Major pharmaceutical companies have invested heavily in finding new medicines, but up to now most candidate drugs have failed clinical trials.

“Very few companies are willing to spend billions on developing an Alzheimer’s drug since most molecules fail in the clinic,” said Prof O’Connell.

“The drugs we have are either not targeting the correct molecules or they’re not acting in the correct place in the brain.”

Prof O’Connell’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s.

“There’s often a 10-year window of degradation where you don’t even realise that the person has it,” he said. “It manifests later, as with my own father, in a very debilitating and awful situation.”

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The scientists first worked out the mechanism of the disease — how certain molecules stick to others and cause Alzheimer’s. Then they designed huge collections of new molecules, of all shapes and sizes, into what they call “libraries”.

They then searched these for molecules that had precisely the right shape that could enable them to block the binding of key molecules, which, in turn, stopped Alzheimer’s.

“By being able to attach our new molecules to these species that are most toxic, we can block the amplification of the (Alzheimer’s) cycle and potentially even revert it,” Prof O’Connell said.

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