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Alzheimer's drug hope

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A cure for Alzheimer's is still a long way off, but scientists are a step closer with the development of a drug that prevents brain cell death in mice. 

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New hope for an Alzheimer's drug

A cure for Alzheimer's is still a long way off, but scientists are a step closer with the development of a drug that prevents brain cell death in mice.

Still at a very early and experimental stage, the drug blocks disruption of a defence system in the brain which plays a common role in these tragic disorders.

Normally, the defence system goes into action when brain cells are attacked by a virus. The cells shut down nearly all protein production in order to halt the virus's spread. When the virus is eliminated, the system is then switched off.

Unfortunately, with brain diseases like Alzheimer's, the same defence system can by switched on by rogue, misshapen proteins or amyloids and, in this case, it doesn't shut off.

Illustration from Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a program of the American Health Assistance Foundation

As a result, the misshapen proteins are no longer made — but nor are normal proteins that are essential for brain-cell survival. Neurons start to die, are not replenished, and the disease progresses.

British researchers, reporting in the US journal Science Translational Medicine, tested a drug that works on a key point in this switching pathway, an enzyme called Perk, to keep protein production open.

Known by its lab name as GSK2606414 — it is made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline — the orally-administered drug was tested on 29 mice with prion disease, a family of disorders that includes Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease.

These were compared against a group of ‘‘control’’ mice, whose brain had also been infected with prions but which did not receive the drug.

Mice that were treated seven weeks after being infected with the prions suffered no memory loss in a test to recognise a familiar object, but those treated at nine weeks lost their memory.

The mice were killed and autopsied, and examination of samples under a microscope confirmed that brain-cell death among all the treated mice was very low, although less so among the nine-week group.

Professor Giovanna Mallucci

The University of Leicester team say they are hugely buoyed by the success, although many more years of tests lie ahead.

‘‘We were extremely excited when we saw the treatment stop the disease in its tracks and protect brain cells, restoring some normal behaviours and preventing memory loss in the mice,’’ said Giovanna Mallucci, a professor of toxicology.

‘‘We’re still a long way from a usable drug for humans — this compound had serious side effects,’’ Prof Mallucci told Britain’s Press Association.

‘‘But the fact we have established that this pathway can be manipulated to protect against brain cell loss, first with genetic tools and now with a compound, means that developing drug treatments targeting this pathway for prion and other neurodegenerative diseases is now a real possibility.’’

If the drug eventually progressed to human patients, people would need treatment ‘‘for years or even decades in many cases’’, the study also cautioned.

Alzheimer’s is the commonest form of dementia, a condition that afflicts nearly 35.6 million people around the globe, according to the World Health Organisation.

Adapted from an AFP agency story in today's Bangkok Post.

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Vocabulary:

administer: to give drugs, medicine, etc. to somebody - ให้ (ยา), จ่ายยา

afflict: to suffer from a serious problem or illness - กระทบ

autopsy: a medical examination of a dead person’s body to find out why they died - การชันสูตรศพ

behaviour: the way that someone acts or behaves - พฤติกรรม, การกระทำตัว

block: to stop something from being done or from succeeding - ปิด, กีดขวาง

brain: the organ inside the head that controls movement, thought, memory and feeling - สมอง

buoy: to encourage someone and make them feel more confident   - สนับสนุน ให้กำลังใจ

caution: to warn; to tell someone about a danger or problem that they need to know about or avoid - เตือน

compound: a substance formed by a chemical reaction of two or more elements in fixed amounts relative to each other - สารประกอบ, สิ่งที่เกิดจากส่วนประกอบสองส่วนขึ้นไป

condition: the physical state of a person or animal, especially how healthy they are - อาการ, สุขภาพ

cure: making someone/something healthy or in good condition again - รักษาให้หาย, การรักษา

decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ

defence: protecting somebody/something from attack - การป้องกัน, การต้าน, การ พิทักษ์

degenerate: to become worse, lower in quality or weaker - เสื่อมโทรม, ทำให้แย่ลง

dementia: a serious mental disorder caused by brain disease or injury, that affects the ability to think, remember and behave normally - ภาวะสมองเสื่อม

disorder: an illness or medical condition - ความผิดปกติทางกายหรือใจ

disruption: a situation in which something cannot continue because of a problem - การขัดขวาง, การหยุดชะงัก

eliminate: to get rid of completely - กำจัดหรือขจัดให้หมดไป

enzyme: a substance, produced by all living things, which helps a chemical change happen or happen more quickly, without being changed itself - เอนไซม์,โปรตีนที่ควบคุมปฏิกริยาทางชีวเคมีในร่างกาย

essential: necessary - ที่จำเป็น

establish: to discover, prove, or decide that something is true - พิสูจน์, แสดงให้เห็น

eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด

experimental: connected with scientific experiments; based on new ideas, forms or methods that are used to find out what effect they have - เป็นการทดลอง, เกี่ยวกับการทดลองทางวิทยาศาสตร์

genetic: connected with genes (= the units in the cells of a living thing that control its physical characteristics) or genetics (= the study of genes ) - เกี่ยวกับพันธศาสตร์,ยีน

halt: to stop - หยุด

infected: having a disease transmitted from someone else - ซึ่งติดเชื้อ

journal: a newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject or profession - นิตยสาร, วารสาร

key: very important - ที่สำคัญ

manipulate: to control or use something in a skilful way - จัดการ, ,ยักย้าย, เปลี่ยนแปลงให้เหมาะสม

misshapen: not having the correct shape; distorted - ผิดรูปผิดร่าง, บุบบิบ

neuron: a cell that carries information within the brain and between the brain and other parts of the body; a nerve cell - เซลล์ประสาท

normal: typical, usual or ordinary; what you would expect - ปกติ, ภาวะปกติ

oral: connected with the mouth - เกี่ยวกับปาก

patient: someone who is receiving medical treatment - คนป่วย, คนไข้

prevent: to stop somebody from doing something; to stop something from happening - ขัดขวาง, กัน, กีดขวาง

prion: a very small unit of protein that is believed to be the cause of brain diseases such as BSE, CJD and scrapie - พรีออน

production: the process of making goods or materials, especially large quantities - การผลิต

professor: a university teacher of the highest rank - ศาสตราจารย์

progress: to improve or develop, or to get nearer to achieving or completing something - ก้าวหน้า

recognise: to know who a person is or what something is - จำได้ รู้จัก

replenish: to make something full again by replacing what has been used - เติมเต็มใหม่

researcher: a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย

restore: to bring back to good condition - ฟื้นฟูสภาพ

rogue: behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way - ไม่ซื่อ, อันธพาล

role: the purpose or influence of someone or something in a particular situation - บทบาท

sample: a small amount of a substance that is used for scientific or medical tests - ตัวอย่างทดลอง

side effect: an unpleasant effect of a drug that happens in addition to the main effect - ผลข้างเคียง

spread: gradually affecting or covering a larger area - การแพร่กระจาย

stage: a part of an activity or process or a period of development - ช่วง, ระยะ, ตอน

stop in its tracks: to stop something (e.g., a disease) quickly and completely -

suffer (from): to be badly affected by a disease, pain, sadness, a lack of something, etc - เป็นโรค, ประสบความทุกข์

survival: the fact or state of continuing to live or exist, especially in difficult conditions - การอยู่รอด

switch off: to turn a light, machine, system, etc. off - ปิดการทำงาน

switch on: to turn a light, machine, system, etc. on - เปิดการทำงาน

target: to direct something at someone or something - ตั้งเป้าหมาย

the globe: the world - โลก

toxicology: the scientific study of poisons - พิษวิทยา

tragic: causing or involving great sadness, because someone suffers or dies - น่าสลดใจ

treat: to provide medical care - รักษา

More on this topic

Related search: Alzheimer's, drug, brain cell death, mice, Giovanna Mallucci, University of Leicester

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