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A New Potential Cause for Alzheimer’s: Arginine Deprivation


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Even better news is that the drug they are using to block the immune system from consuming Arginine, DFMO, is currently in human trials for anti cancer effects. So the human trials for this are much closer than usual with breakthrough drug testing.

 

 

Excerpt:

 

"Durham, NC - Increasingly, evidence supports the idea that the immune system, which protects our bodies from foreign invaders, plays a part in Alzheimer’s disease. But the exact role of immunity in the disease is still a mystery.

 

A new Duke University study in mice suggests that in Alzheimer’s disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine. Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

 

Published April 15 in the Journal of Neuroscience, the new research not only points to a new potential cause of Alzheimer’s but also may eventually lead to a new treatment strategy.

 

“If indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease,” said senior author Carol Colton, professor of neurology at the Duke University School of Medicine, and a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

 

The brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease show two hallmarks -- ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ -- that researchers have puzzled over for some time. Plaques are the build up of sticky proteins called beta amyloid, and tangles are twisted strands of a protein called tau.

 

In the study, the scientists used a type of mouse, called CVN-AD, that they had created several years ago by swapping out a handful of important genes to make the animal’s immune system more similar to a human’s.

 

Compared with other mice used in Alzheimer’s research, the CVN-AD mouse has it all: plaques and tangles, behavior changes, and neuron loss.

 

In addition, the gradual onset of these symptoms in the CVN-AD mouse gave researchers a chance to study its brain over time and to focus on how the disease begins, said the study’s first author Matthew Kan, an MD/PhD student in Colton’s lab.

 

Looking for immune abnormalities throughout the lifespan of the mice, the group found that most immune system components stayed the same in number, but a type of brain-resident immune cells called microglia that are known first responders to infection begin to divide and change early in the disease.

 

Blocking arginase using the small drug difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) before the start of symptoms in the mice, the scientists saw fewer CD11c microglia and plaques develop in their brains. These mice performed better on memory tests.

 

“All of this suggests to us that if you can block this local process of amino acid deprivation, then you can protect -- the mouse, at least -- from Alzheimer’s disease,” Kan said.

 

DFMO is being investigated in human clinical trials to treat some types of cancer, but it hasn’t been tested as a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s. In the new study, Colton’s group administered it before the onset of symptoms; now they are investigating whether DFMO can treat features of Alzheimer’s after they appear."

 

The whole article is here: https://today.duke.edu/2015/04/arginine

 

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