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A Replacement Therapy May Be Able to Rescue the Brain From Alzheimer's

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A new study from a University of Cincinnati researcher suggests the current treatment for Alzheimer's disease is not addressing the cause of the disease, and a protein replacement therapy is more appropriate.

A protein replacement therapy may rescue the brain from Alzheimer's, so says a University of Cincinnati researcher whose new study was published Monday.

Professor of Neurology Alberto Espay is frustrated the FDA recently approved a drug he says is based on a faulty theory. He says the problem isn't clumps of plaque but missing liquid protein. He says this protein is needed in its original, soluble form to keep the brain healthy.

Sometimes the protein clumps into amyloid plaques, but Espay says that's not the problem.

"No matter how high the amyloid gets, if individuals are able to keep a level of the soluble fraction of the product, which is the normal protein, they can do very well. And that is the opposite theory to what's prevailing, what's been with us all along," Espay said.

UC's study, conducted in collaboration with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, appears in the journal EClinical Medicine (published by the Lancet). (For more about the study, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFimB-G7QTI&t=57s)

Espay says he understands why scientists got confused when doing autopsy studies.

"Of course, we were seeing this abnormal clumps of proteins. So it was natural and local to think this was the problem," he said.

Since then doctors have focused on treatments to eliminate the plaques, including prescribing the recently approved drug.

But Espay says a replacement therapy, not getting rid of the plaques is the right approach. UC and Karolinska are working on one and testing their findings on animal models.
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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.