As people begin to reach the age of 60 and older it is often inevitable to become victims of many health issues. However, new discoveries by scientists at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California may decrease the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disorder that causes progressive mental deterioration and memory loss, by changing a gene.
Out of the 5.5 billion individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease each year, the main link between most people is a gene called apolipoprotein (apoE4). ApoE4 is found on chromosome 19 and it is an essential carrier of cholesterol through the brain and bloodstream. The correlation between this gene and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease guided Dr. Yadung Huang and his team to take action.
After close analysis of human skin cells that were donated from patients with Alzheimer’s disease and the apoE4 gene in comparison to healthy individuals who did not possess the gene, these scientists discovered how to edit the gene and turn it into a slightly different form known as apoE3, which does not have any links to Alzheimer’s disease. They did this by creating “structure correctors” which change the structure of the proteins produced by apoE4 in order to resemble a harmless apoE3 gene. This treatment eliminated the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, restored function to the previously damaged cells and improved overall cell survival, meaning it prevented the cells from continuing to degenerate.
Although this is not being directly tested on people yet, Huang is now working with his team to improve the compounds in order to eventually test this procedure on Alzheimer’s patients with the hopes of reversing the negative effects.