NUS scientists identify key cause and possible treatment for Alzheimer's

Yale-NUS College researchers identified a common anti-diabetes drug, called Metformin, which may cure Alzheimer's disease

Yale-NUS College Campus
Yale-NUS College

Alzheimer's disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells but recently researchers from Yale-NUS College have found the evidence of the key cause of the disease that is metabolic dysfunction. They have also identified a common anti-diabetes drug, Metformin that can potentially be used as treatment.

It should be mentioned that Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting the elderly worldwide. As per the reports, at least 50 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. But despite more than twenty years of worldwide research effort, scientists have yet to identify the exact cause of Alzheimer's and no proven treatment is available.

As per the scientists, there are two competing theories for the possible cause of Alzheimer's disease. A news release revealed that "The first purports that the accumulation of a specific protein called amyloid-beta protein in the brain is the primary cause," while the second theory states that "metabolic dysfunction - specifically dysfunction of mitochondria, the cell's energy-producing machinery - is responsible."

The team, led by Assistant Professor of Science (Biochemistry) Jan Gruber, discovered that metabolic defects occur well before any significant increase in the amount of amyloid-beta protein was detected. In this case, it should be mentioned that as per further studies when a common anti-diabetes drug, Metformin was used for Alzheimer's treatment, these metabolic defects could potentially be reversed.

Prof Gruber mentioned that the current trials of the drugs which target the proteins, "have failed despite billions of dollars being invested. Based on the emerging strong links between mitochondrial dysfunction and Alzheimer's pathology, it might be better to adopt a preventative strategy by targeting metabolic defects, especially mitochondrial defects, directly and early, well before protein aggregates are even present."

In addition, he also mentioned that metabolic and mitochondrial dysfunctions should be viewed as fundamental features of ageing in general and that age-dependent diseases, including Alzheimer's, should thus be viewed as manifestations of ageing. It may be easier to prevent or treat age-associated diseases by targeting the mechanisms of ageing rather than by treating individual diseases after symptoms occur.

A team led by Asst Prof Gruber (2nd from right) has found evidence that metabolic dysfunction might be a key cause of Alzheimer’s disease
A team led by Asst Prof Gruber (2nd from right) has found evidence that metabolic dysfunction might be a key cause of Alzheimer’s disease NUS