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Alzheimer's Disease

Research for Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease

11/19/1999

Question:

My Husband has early onset Alzheimer's Disease, yesterday a friend told us about a new cure for Alzheimer's Disease that is being tryed on earlly onset people to grow/replace brain cells. Have you heard of this and do you know who is doing the research and how long till it is going to be used?

Answer:

One of the biggest puzzles of the brain is why the nerve cells of this organ almost never reproduce themselves after one year of life. This is different from skin, liver and many other types of cells, and it is a major roadblock to providing restorative therapy to people who suffer from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in the use of stem cells (cultured cells that are capable of dividing and of becoming neurons) to try and circumvent this problem. The work is proceeding slowly and is currently done primarily in animal model systems. There are many problems to overcome such as how to make the cells stop dividing once they are put into a normal brain and how to "teach" the new cells to behave like the neurons we would want them to replace. None of these problems are simple and certainly no therapy based on these cells is ready for large scale trials on humans. For now, the best advice for your family is to pursue traditional approaches to dementia treatment. For more reading, look up the work of Fred Gage, Evan Snyder and Barbara Gould.

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Response by:

Jon Stuckey, PhD
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University

Karl Herrup, PhD
Formerly, Professor of Neurosciences
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University