Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have identified a molecule in the brain they say could lead to earlier detection and more effective treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists found they can use a certain peptide present in the brains of mice to identify whether the mouse has Alzheimer's disease in the earliest, asymptomatic stage of the disease.
If the appearance of that peptide holds true for humans, it could create a path for doctors to identify Alzheimer's in patients prior to the appearance of symptoms and more effectively use treatments that are already available. It could also lead to further innovation in the treatment of other neurological conditions linked to inflammation, such as Parkinson's disease, glioblastoma, brain injuries and stroke, according to SBP.
The discovery was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers identified the molecule by observing how the brains of mice interact with a biological injection.
Scientists will now develop an imaging platform, using MRI or PET scans, to differentiate between mice with Alzheimer's and those without the disease. Then they will be able to explore whether the discovery applies to humans, according to Dr. Erkki Ruoslahti, senior author of the paper.
Many clinical studies that used treatments that target a protein that creates brain plaques have failed, suggesting that treatments must be given prior to the appearance of plaques. The discovery of the peptide could lead to an entirely new drug pathway unrelated to others previously explored, Ruoslahti said.
The newly identified peptide "has the potential to fill both roles — identifying at-risk individuals prior to overt signs of AD and targeted delivery of drugs to diseased areas of the brain," he said.
The technology has been licensed to AivoCode Inc., which was formed last year to further study another discovery made by SBP researchers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.