Scientists are a step closer to developing a pill to cure dementia.
A team in Belgium were able to repair diseased brain cells taken from patients with a common form of the condition, for which there is no cure.
They identified a gene variant that prevents neurons from forming properly, and managed to correct it through genetic engineering.
The researchers found they could also correct alter the gene a compound that inhibited a chemical responsible for the gene mutation.
They have hailed the discovery a breakthrough, believing it could pave the way for a new ‘dementia pill’.
The study used stem cells from three patients with a type of dementia called ‘frontotemporal dementia’, which accounts for about half of cases diagnosed in patients before the age of 60.
There is currently no cure for this type of the condition, which runs in families.
Frontotemporal disorders are the result of damage to neurons in parts of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes, gradually leading to behavioural symptoms or language and emotional problems.
Mutations in a gene called GRN (progranulin) are believed to be behind frontotemporal dementia, but versions of the condition in mice do not mimic all the features of the human type.
So the Belgian researchers recreated dementia in a laboratory dish using human iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) to help identify a potential new treatment strategy.
Molecular biologist Professor Catherine Verfaillie, of the Catholic University of Leuven, said: ‘Use of induced pluripotent stem cell technology makes it possible to model dementias that affect people later in life.’
The technique involves taking skin cells from patients and reprogramming them into embryonic like stem cells capable of turning into other specific cell types relevant for studying a particular disease.
The Latest on: Dementia pill
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