Stem cells produce the next potential Alzheimer's treatment

As we know, so many attempted Alzheimer's treatments haven't yet worked. But could a new type of cell get the job done?

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), seem to think so. They came up with a new cell type, derived from stem cells, that they see as possibly combating the disease and other neurodegenerative conditions in a new way. Their work is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

What the scientists came up with are cells called choroid plexus epithelial cells (CPECs); they coaxed them from mouse and human embryonic stem cell lines already known to researchers. First, they triggered embryonic stem cells to morph into immature neural stem cells, which were morphed, in turn, into CPECs that could be targeted to the choroid plexus. This is a relevant target, the researchers note, because patients with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's endure premature aging of both the choroid plexus and CPECs. This, in turn, leaves smaller amounts of cerebral spinal fluid, which in turn leaves the body less able to get rid of plaque-forming proteins that can lead to Alzheimer's or other debris that can contribute to neurodegenerative decline.

This is early stage, of course. Scientists believe that they could use these CPEC injections to help boost production of cerebral spinal fluid, which in turn could, theoretically, rid the brain of plaque-forming proteins. The research team also sees the CPECs as a method of drug delivery, something that could take drugs to treat a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's directly to the brain, spinal cord and cerebral spinal fluid. Human trials are likely years away, however, and there are no guarantees that this process will work in humans.

We don't even know if CPEC treatments will work in animals, but those tests are coming. The research team says it will, in part, pursue proof-of-concept studies to explore what CPECs do to mice with Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease, as well as pediatric diseases. And they are encouraged by their initial discovery.

"For the first time we can use stem cells to create large amounts of these epithelial cells, which could be utilized in different ways to treat neurodegenerative diseases," lead researcher Edwin Monuki, of UCI's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, said in a statement.

- read the release
- here's the journal abstract