Age related deterioration
in critical parts of the brain may be restored by gene therapy, according
to a study in monkeys presented at the American Academy of Neurology's
52nd Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA, April 29 -- May 6, 2000. This
finding lends support to a study just underway to treat Alzheimer's disease
using a similar gene therapy approach, say the study's authors.
Researchers from the University of California in San Diego found that normal aging in monkeys causes a 28 percent decline in the density of axons originating from cholinergic neurons deep in the brain.
"It would be inappropriate* to suggest that this approach could be used to treat the course of normal aging, but it is not a far stretch to suggest that this may be useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease," said Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, a researcher at the Center for Neural Repair at UCSD and principal author of the report. "Indeed, we are now beginning clinical trials to determine whether nerve growth factor gene therapy will be useful in combating Alzheimer's disease in humans."
"We show that we can reverse these age-related losses of connections in the cortex by delivering nerve growth factor to cell bodies deep within the brain," said Tuszynski.
The next steps, said Tuszynski, are to determine whether nerve growth factor gene therapy actually improves mental function in aged monkeys and to proceed with clinical trials to determine if this therapy is safe and effective in humans with Alzheimer's disease.
This is clearly work to follow, as it progresses through its experimental stages. For some interesting down-to-earth discussions of the brain, see http://www.aan.com/neurovista.
* - as in dangerous to one's reputation?