It’s estimated that more than five million North American’s have Alzheimer’s Disease.
The fatal neurological disorder develops in adults, usually over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s damages and kills brain cells, leading to significant brain shrinkage over time.
The symptom most synonymous with Alzheimer’s is memory loss but impulsive behavior, mood/personality changes, hallucinations, and confusion are also common.
There may be no cure, but Texas A&M’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Celltex Therapeutics are investigating whether inflammation-fighting sacs could be used to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Fluid-filled sacs, or vesicles, carry material inside a cell. In the instance when cells release these sacs, they become mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) exosomes. MSCs can develop into almost any type of cell in the body, including bone, cartilage, muscle, or fat. The team plans on utilizing mesenchymal stem cells to generate exosomes, which are found in many bodily fluids, including blood and urine.
Exosomes have specialized functions; they’re pivotal in cell-to-cell signaling, and have untapped therapeutic potential, like delivering anti-inflammatory agents to the brain.
The researchers will test whether exosomes can reduce brain inflammation, and repair nerve cell damage in Alzheimer’s patients.
SIGNS OF SUCCESS
Members of the research team have already worked together on a similar experimentexploring exosomes’ capacity to decrease brain damage from injuries and seizures.
They discovered that exosomes could limit a prolonged seizure’s damage to the brain. The study, done with animal test subjects, looked to treat a seizure disorder known as status epilepticus. The condition consists of a series of seizures lasting over 30 minutes, where the sufferer doesn’t wake up between episodes. These episodes lead to brain damage, loss of cognitive function, and memory loss, when left unaddressed.
The brain inflammation caused by these seizures is similar to that seen in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
Using a nasal spray, the team administered the anti-inflammatory exosomes, easing nerve cell inflammation and preventing cognitive and memory dysfunction. It also stopped abnormal nerve cell generation in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.
THE DRUGS DON’T WORK
While pharmaceuticals conceal the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the short term, they fail to cure the disease or prevent its rapid advancement. These aren’t solutions as much as they are Band-Aids.
Conversely, the goal of Texas A&M and Celltex’s research is to treat the disease by stopping neuronal damage. Exosomes may also rejuvenate the networks of surviving but sick neurons via their anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
The results have been promising thus far, and while the initial studies will involve animals, the goal is to have clinical trials in humans within three years.
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