Promising New Development in Fighting Dementia
Researchers have found that a specific class of antibiotics could be a promising new lead in the fight against frontotemporal dementia.
The study was a joint effort between the UKs Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Pathology, who recently published their findings in the respected journal, Human Molecular Genetics.
The second most common form of dementia
After Alzheimer's, Frontotemporal dementia is the most common form of the memory affecting disease and is the most common type of early onset dementia. Symptoms start to materialise in patients between the ages of 40 and 65, and include changes to behaviour, difficulty speaking and writing and memory loss.
A subgroup of those with frontotemporal dementia have a unique form of genetic mutation that stops the brain from producing the protein, progranulin. While scientists are still working on fully understanding this protein, the lack of it is widely agreed to be linked to the disease.
Drugs prevent brain cell mutation
One of the groups involved in the study, led by Haining Zhu, a professor in the UK’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, found adding aminoglycoside antibiotics to the affected neuronal cells caused them to start producing the progranulin protein by skipping the mutation. They found two different types of the antibiotic were effective in repairing the damaged brain cells with an improvement of around 50-60%.
Matthew Gentry, co-author of the study and the Antonio S. Turco Endowed Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, said: “These patients' brain cells have a mutation that prevents progranulin from being made. The team found that by adding a small antibiotic molecule to the cells, they could 'trick' the cellular machinery into making it."
Is this the answer?
Currently, the antibiotics used are unlikely to be suitable for long-term treatment as they can have a number of side effects, so the next stage is to conduct further testing and to look into developing new drugs based on the successful antibiotics.
According to Zhu, “If we can get the right resources and physician to work with, we could potentially repurpose this drug. This is an early stage of the study, but it provides an important proof of concept that these aminoglycoside antibiotics or their derivatives can be a therapeutic avenue for frontotemporal dementia."
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