New research from the Buck Institute in California offers insights into new treatments targeting the interaction between ApoE4 and SirT1 proteins, moving closer to developing preventative treatments for Alzheimer's among people genetically predisposed to the disease.
Scientists have identified a cholesterol-carrying protein, called ApoE4, as being a major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
This protein is present in 25% of the American population, and about 66% of Alzheimer's sufferers are known to have it, but it is not understood how ApoE4 increases the risk of developing this neurodegenerative disease.
In a study, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers believe they are getting closer to finding the link between ApoE4 and SirT1 - an anti-aging protein.
And they have shown that this link is targeted by resveratrol, a compound found in red wine.
Lead scientists Rammohan Rao, PhD, and Dale Bredesen, MD, explain that SirT1 levels drop dramactically in the presence of Apo4E.
The study shows that this reduction can be found in both cultured neural cells and in brain samples taken from patients with Apo4E and Alzheimer's.
Stopping beta-amyloid build-up
The scientists also claim that some of the abnormalities associated with Apo4E and Alzheimer's, such as the creation of beta-amyloid, could be prevented by increasing SirT1.
Furthermore, the researchers say that the reduction of SirT1 changes the way amyloid precursor protein is processed. More beta-amyloid is formed when Apo4E levels are high, and this is significant because beta-amyloid is associated with the sticky plaques that are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Bredesen, founding CEO of the Buck Institute, says:
"The biochemical mechanisms that link ApoE4 to Alzheimer's disease have been something of a black box. However, recent work from a number of labs, including our own, has begun to open the box."
Approximately 66% of Alzheimer's sufferers have the protein Apo4E. Research continues to explore the links between the two.
The researchers note that Alzheimer's affects over 5 million Americans and at present, there are no treatments known to cure or halt the progression of the disease.
The scientists hope that their research will identify treatments that can be given to Apo4E carriers to halt the development of the disease.
Researchers are still struggling to get to grips with the causes of Alzheimer's. Earlier this month Medical News Today reported that lack of sleep may increase the risks and people with hardened arteries are more likely to have beta-amyloid plaques on their brains.
The Department of Health and Human Services highlights the importance of finding effective treatment or prevention for Alzheimer's by pointing out that the number of sufferers is set to increase dramatically in the 20 years.
The report states:
"The prevalence of people with Alzheimer's doubles for every 5-year interval beyond age 65. The significant growth in the population over age 85 that is estimated to occur between 2010 and 2030 (from 5.5 million to 8.7 million) suggests a substantial increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's."
Rammohan Rao, associate research professor at the Buck Institute, is hopeful that this research will help. He says:
"This research offers a new type of screen for Alzheimer's prevention and treatment.
One of our goals is to identify a safe, non-toxic treatment that could be given to anyone who carries the ApoE4 gene to prevent the development of Alzheimer's."