Dementia cures hope as scientists discover shock therapy that ‘fixes misfolded proteins’

Scientists discover shock therapy that ‘fixes misfolded proteins’ linked to dementia – provides hope for nearly a million Britons living with the condition

  • Researchers have found that ‘shock’ for cells can reverse the abnormal accumulation of proteins called amyloid beta in the brain
  • When these proteins are misfolded, they end up sticky on the outside and collect in plaques – which are thought to kill brain cells and lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Scientists have discovered that heat shock proteins, which are triggered by high body temperatures, can reverse this misfolding
  • A team from the British Institute for Dementia Research at Cambridge University warned that research is at an early stage

The cure for dementia may have come a step closer after scientists found a way to fix the ‘misfolded’ proteins associated with the condition.

Researchers have found that ‘shock’ for cells can reverse the abnormal accumulation of proteins called amyloid beta in the brain.

When these proteins are misfolded, they are sticky on the outside and shrink to form plaques – which are thought to kill brain cells and lead to Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia.

Scientists have discovered that heat shock proteins, which are triggered by high body temperatures, can undo this misfolding.

The cure for dementia may have come a step closer after scientists found a way to fix the ‘misfolded’ proteins associated with the condition.  (image file)

The cure for dementia may have come a step closer after scientists found a way to fix the ‘misfolded’ proteins associated with the condition. (image file)

This could help explain research showing that people who frequently use saunas in Finland are less likely to get dementia.

A team from the British Institute for Dementia Research at the University of Cambridge has warned that the research, which is partly funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, is at an early stage.

But Dr Edward Avezov, a senior author of the study, said: ‘Optimistically, in the future we could find a cure that will awaken this mechanism we have discovered and prevent diseases like dementia.’

Nearly a million people in the UK have dementia and there are no drugs to prevent it.

Scientists have struggled to remove amyloid beta buildup in the brain.

Scientists have discovered that heat shock proteins, which are triggered by high body temperatures, can undo this misfolding.  This could help explain research that shows that people who use saunas frequently in Finland are less likely to get dementia

Scientists have discovered that heat shock proteins, which are triggered by high body temperatures, can undo this misfolding. This could help explain research that shows that people who use saunas frequently in Finland are less likely to get dementia

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, identifies potential means of preventing accumulation.

But shock can cause stress that kills brain cells. Therefore, experts are looking for a way to cause a similar reaction in the brain, which could lead to the development of the drug.

Dr Richard Oakley, assistant director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said the study ‘changed the game in dementia research’.

He added that it was a ‘step towards effective and safe treatments’ for people with dementia.

Professor Tara Spiers-Jones of the University of Edinburgh said: ‘This study builds on previous work that similarly showed that stressing cells with cold instead of heat can protect them from misfolded proteins. But a drug that targets these mechanisms is likely to be far from us. ‘

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