By slowly reducing levels of the enzyme BACE1 in mice as they age, scientists at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio discovered that the formation of amyloid plaques on the brain (bits of protein build up that are believed to be at the root of Alzheimer’s disease) were either prevented or reversed. The study was published on February 14 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
BACE1 is a protein that forms naturally in the brain and helps with brain plaque formation. By reducing levels of this enzyme, scientists found that not only were mice genetically destined for Alzheimer’s prevented from getting the disease, but the disease was actually reversed in mice that were already showing signs of the disease.
Although this study shows promising results that suggest a BACE1 inhibitor could effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease, scientists warn that it’s too soon to be sure, as mice are so different from humans.
According to Newsweek, Dr. Daniel Franc, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California said that these results are still important, regardless of whether this exact finding can be successfully translated to humans.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Currently there is no cure for the disease, but studies have found that early detection could be doctors’ best chance for slowing its progress.