Alzheimer’s Genes Not That Important

Alzheimer’s doesn’t kill you, it’s almost worse than a life threatening disease though. It leaves everyone involved in a state of general unhappiness and helplessness. It’s extremely common and one of the worst conditions of old age in terms of the suffering it causes.

Alzheimer’s disease, like all others is first and foremost kicked off by poor health as well as things like head trauma and a lack of antioxidants in one’s diet. A statistical connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s suggests, like nearly all illnesses, an overall lack of enzymes contributes to the development of the disease as well. Some genes contribute to the problem by making the amount of a protein called a-beta over abundantly or by limiting the amount of the protein that can be cleared out of the brain. The underlying problem is accumulation of a-beta in the brain which clogs it up and causes many problems. These discoveries were made by Rudolf Tanzi of Harvard University in 1986.

Tanzi and an Australian friend recently formed a biotech company located in Australia named Prana in order to engineer a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. What’s their big idea? Well it seems that the copper and zinc in the a-beta proteins is what causes the most damage in the brain, so they are going to make a drug that takes the zinc and copper out of a-beta. This sounds like it will interfere with zinc and copper absorption in general (these are very important minerals) as well as possibly screwing up the brain since a-beta probably no longer serves it’s purpose when the copper and zinc are taken out. I will say that this may work to clear out the old a-beta in short term high intensity regimens, but it sounds like a prescription for side-effects otherwise in the long run.

On the upside another biotech company in the US is working on creating a drug that stimulates enzymes that cause less a-beta to be produced. This drug will be targeted at people who aren’t that old and have an overproduction of a-beta rather than a long standing buildup. It would be simpler to just give out prescriptions for this enzyme itself but then that’s not patentable because enzymes are naturally occurring, and there is no money in it.

References & Resources:
"Key to understanding Alzheimer's", Emily Smith
March 06, 2004, The Australian News

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