Scientists have recently found that a drug known for suppressing the immune system so that transplant patients don’t reject their new organs may have more than one major benefit. It may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
What happens to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is that toxic protein aggregates known as Amyloid beta oligomers target and disrupt selective points of communication that link brain cells to one and other.
While calcineurin is normally the enzyme that oversees communication between brain cells, as well as memory formation, it is also a well known fact that this exact enzyme aids Amyloid beta oligomers in damaging the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and that it resides in elevated levels in their nervous systems.
Experts on the subjects have wondered for a long time whether or not a treatment that blocks calcineurin could prevent Alzheimer’s disease from progressing further in patients injected with the calcineurin-blocking agent. However testing has been difficult as such a treatment would suppress the immune system.
Now, a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, has revealed that a team of researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) have examined the medical records of more than 2.600 patients (2.644 to be exact) who benefited from organ transplants and as a result of the operation now have to take calcineurin-blocking treatments for as long as they live. Two (2) of these treatments are tacrolimus and cyclosporine.
The 2.644 subjects were split up and divided into groups by age, gender and ethnicity. The results were that that only eight (8) of them showed any signs of dementia. Two (2) of them were younger than 65, five (5) were somewhere between 65 and 74 years old, and one patient was in the group of 75 to 84 year olds.
Luca Cicalese, senior author and professor in the department of surgery, gave a statement explaining that “These data clearly show that the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s in our transplant patient group is significantly lower, in fact almost absent, when compared to national data from the general population”.
He goes on to inform that when looking at the general population, he and his team found that 11 percent (11%) of the patients who were over the age of 65 showed signs of dementia. The same can be said only about 1.02 percent (1.02%) of the subjects in the recently conducted study.
In addition to this, 15.3 percent (15.3%) of the general population patients living in the United States who were over the age of 75 also showed signs of dementia. Out of the study subjects over the age of 75, only 0.6 percent (0.6%) of them had the same mental disease.
As for those over the age of 85, 32 percent (32%) of the general population patients showed signs of dementia, however there’s no comparable data here as the researchers had no subjects in this age group.
The researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch are currently working on developing a similar calcineurin-blocking treatment that would benefit Alzheimer’s patients.
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