It’s a scary thought to see someone who you’ve known and relied on for most of your life, exhibiting signs of forgetfulness. At first, you think they may have made an honest mistake by forgetting the car keys. And then, as you see this same scenario playing out again and again, you fear that the worst case scenario is already here. A disease like Alzheimer’s, which falls under Dementia, has well and truly become a part of your life from that moment onwards.
For far too long, there has been no cure for dementia. Modern medicine has failed in this respect, with many medical professionals instead opting for administering ‘managed care’ for those whose minds are in a state of disrepair.
But now, a recent discovery by a team of neuroscientists may very well turn the tide against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
As you age, your progressive memory starts to decline, leading to dementia.
A New Hope
A Switzerland-based Pakistani neuroscientist, as well as his team members, have discovered a molecular pathway in the human brain that helps explain memory loss associated with old age and dementia.
Dr Ali Jawaid, MD PhD, at the Mansuy lab in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, has demonstrated a way to put a stop to memory impairment in dementia disorders. In short, the reversal of memory loss is pretty much possible.
How Does the Cure Work?
Before we get to this, it is important to understand how Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is caused. This progressive neurodegenerative disorder occurs due to the accumulation of toxic senile amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. These toxic proteins end up causing synaptic and neuron loss in their victims.
Dr Ali and his team have discovered a pathway through which these toxic proteins block memories. A small cluster of regulatory molecules, also known as microRNAs, need to do their duty without any hurdles in their way. It is these RNAs whose production is impaired in patients who suffer from dementia, thus causing a blockade on memory retention.
The cure, therefore, will work via injections of these microRNAs in areas of the brain that are responsible for our memory or through environmental enrichment. It may help you remember memories that may otherwise be lost to you forever.
Toxic proteins, which accumulate in the brain, with old age or in neurodegenerative conditions, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (the ice bucket disease) or frontotemporal dementia (second most cause of dementia after Alzheimer disease) impair the production of these microRNAs.
About Dr Ali Jawaid
Dr Ali has studied in the Agha Khan University in Karachi. He has also received training from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, USA and University of Zurich, Switzerland. He has taught Neuroscience at the Biology Department in LUMS as a visiting faculty and chairs the European MD-PhD Association. His scientific credentials include two doctoral degrees, and a tally of 60 scholarly papers in top-notch scientific journals; Nature Neuroscience, Nature Communications, Neuron, Molecular Neurobiology, and Science.