The Yomiuri Shimbun
TOKYO — Researchers have alleviated Alzheimer's symptoms in mice by injecting them with a virus that breaks down an abnormal protein believed to cause the disease, a breakthrough that could open the way to new treatments in humans.
The researchers, led by Takaomi Saido, senior team leader at Riken's Brain Science Institute, reported the findings in the online version of British journal Scientific Reports.
The abnormal protein is thought to cause Alzheimer's when it accumulates in the brain. The team developed a virus containing genes of an enzyme that can break down the protein, and injected it into the mice.
Until now, researchers conducting gene therapy experiments on animal brains have implanted therapeutic viruses into target parts of the brains in a surgical operation.
Saido's team refined a virus with genes of an enzyme that breaks down the abnormal protein. Even when the virus is injected into a vein, and not into the brain itself, the enzyme is formed on nerve cells.
When the virus was injected in mice suffering Alzheimer's, they showed improved memory and lower levels of the abnormal protein, according to the research team.
The findings suggest it could be possible to treat Alzheimer's in humans using such injections.
"The team has made a step forward in terms of developing an innovative method that delivers [a therapeutic virus] to the brain," said Takeshi Iwatsubo, a University of Tokyo professor and neuropathology expert.