Blood vessels could be target for new Alzheimer's therapies

Blood vessel excesses riddle brains afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, giving researchers a target on top of amyloid beta to tackle with new therapies. And Canadian scientists show how dosing mouse models with an amyloid beta immunotherapy attacked the amyloid culprit and reversed the overproduction of vessels in the animals.  

Alzheimer's disease is typically characterized by a buildup of amyloid beta plaques, and so far most forays into Alzheimer's research that have used this as a springboard for potential therapies have failed at some stage of development.

A new study published in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal, has taken a different approach to this widely held belief--they used an amyloid beta peptide to essentially reverse an apparent cause of the disease. Researchers at Canada's University of British Columbia (UBC) and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City say they have normalized the production of blood vessels in the brains of Alzheimer's mice with the immunotherapy.

Amyloid beta deposits are thought to be a hallmark of Alzheimer's, but recent research by the UBC scientists suggests that there might be another culprit behind the disease--an abnormal increase in blood vessels in the brain. They believe that the hyperactive formation of vessels results from the inhibited flow of blood in Alzheimer's brains. 

"The discovery provides further evidence of the role that an overabundance of brain blood vessels plays in AD, as well as the potential efficacy of amyloid beta as basis for an AD vaccine," said lead investigator Wilfred Jefferies, a professor in UBC's Michael Smith Laboratories.

Alzheimer's afflicts more than 5 million Americans, a number that is expected to skyrocket as the population ages. But patients with Alzheimer's, which accounts for most dementia cases, lack marketed therapies that can reverse the progression of the incurable disease. 

- here's the press release
- check out the study
- read the Vancouver Sun story

Special Report: The Alzheimer's pipeline: What's next?