A team of US researchers has reported that one of the proteins released during rheumatoid arthritis can "completely reverse" cognitive impairment in mice bred with some Alzheimer’s symptoms.
The GM-CSF protein, released during rheumatoid arthritis, was effective at removing another protein in the Alzheimer’s mice, amyloid – a major treatment target for dementia. The team theorises that GM-CSF stimulates cells in the body that break down the amyloid. The treatment also improved cognitive skills in the mice.
The researchers gave the GM-CSF protein to a group of mice genetically altered to mimic Alzheimer’s and a second group of normal aged mice. The two groups were split again, one receiving the GM-CSF treatment and the other the placebo.
The 20-day study revealed that the Alzheimer’s mice treated with GM-CSF performed better on memory and learning tests, with the results showing that their memories were similar to normal mice and far improved from their initial ability. The placebo group of Alzheimer’s mice continued to perform at a poor level.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
"Positive results in mice can be an important first step for any new treatment, and it’s encouraging the team is already planning the crucial next stage of a trial in people. We won’t know whether GM-CSF can help people with Alzheimer’s until clinical trials complete.
"The worldwide burden of dementia is growing, with more than 35 million people now affected. Research is the only answer to dementia, we must support our scientists in their efforts to beat it."
(Source: Alzheimer’s Research Trust)