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This ‘Remarkable’ Breakthrough May Reverse The Effects of Alzheimer’s

A team of scientists from the renowned Cleveland Clinic have released a potentially “remarkable” new discovery in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease that causes memory loss and limits cognitive functioning for more than 5 million Americans.

The researchers targeted and erased an enzyme called BACE1 in mice bred with Alzheimer’s, according to a report in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, published Wednesday.  BACE1 generates the beta-amyloid plaque that scientists suspect is the likely cause of Alzheimer’s.

The experiment had the effect of "completely reversing" the buildup of beta-amyloids in the brain and significantly improved brain function in the mice with Alzheimer’s.

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“This knowledge provides a strong foundation for the concept that BACE1 inhibitors should be administered to humans as early as possible to prevent or reverse amyloid deposition,” the study’s authors, led by researcher Xiangyou Hu, wrote in their report.

But it’s too early to celebrate just yet, the scientists say.

The authors advise caution because various other treatments that have worked for mice have not been successful for people with Alzheimer’s.

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Still, the promising development would be a boon for millions of people with Alzheimer’s around the world.

Alzheimer’s Disease International, a leading research and advocacy organization, reported that more than 44 million people worldwide experienced Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia in 2013. Based on population growth and aging trends, the organization estimates that Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia will affect 75.62 million people by 2030 and 135.46 million by 2050.

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The disease also poses a huge, and often sad, challenge for family members and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s who watch as their loved ones change behaviors, lose their comprehension and memories, and eventually die.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death among adults in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But scientists are optimistic. Even if the new findings fail to have the same effect in humans as they do in mice, the results are exciting and could set the stage for future breakthroughs, Daniel Franc, a neurologist in Santa Monica, California, told Newsweek.

“I would say that this is an incremental finding. It’s not revolutionary, but it does add further support to current ongoing approaches,” Franc said. “I don’t think there has ever been a better time to think that we will have interventions for Alzheimer's.”