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Discovery of a new cause for Alzheimer's disease also brings new treatment for the disease Updated: 2022-08-09 08:20:53 KST

A team of South Korean researchers have discovered a potential new treatment for memory loss in patients with dementia.
It involves targeting and inhibiting a specific type of enzyme.
Lee Eun-jin explains.

Alzheimer's disease is the cause of dementia in more than 70 percent of diagnosed patients.
When the brains' of Alzheimer disease patients are scanned, a large amount of a toxic substance called amyloid beta is found.
This toxic substance is known to be the main cause of dementia as it destroys nerve cells in the brain.

The development of treatments for dementia has been at a standstill for a long time.
Scientists get as far as clinical trials, only for treatment to show a lack of improvement in symptoms
Or treatments are proven to be minimally effective compared to the side effects, as in the case of one treatment approved by the U.S. FDA for the first time in June of last year, that was known to directly remove toxic substances from the brain.

But domestic researchers have now discovered a new cause for Alzheimer's disease.
They confirmed that
quite similar to the urea circuit that detoxifies ammonia in the liver,
there is a 'urea circuit' in the star cells in the brain.
When the urea circuit is activated in the reactive star cells this generates putrescine, an organic compound, and GABA, a naturally occurring amino acid, which have been shown to cause dementia.

"If the urea cycle in the brain is activated and leads to recovery, there's no problem.
But if the reactive star cells that detoxify ammonia and produce urea remain activated, this could be toxic to many of the surrounding cells."

ODC1 is one of the enzymes constituting the urea cycle.
The research team confirmed that while the urea cycle is activated in reactive star cells, if the ODC1 enzyme is inhibited, the amount of putrescine and GABA generated through the urea circuit decreases.
Tested on Alzheimer's model mice, their memory was shown to be restored.

"The approach of existing dementia treatment aims to eliminate amyloid directly.
But our new approach that targets ODC1, has the advantage of creating an improved environment where the toxic amyloid beta substance is naturally reduced."

This research team plans to continue follow-up research on their discovery to develop a new treatment that inhibits urea circuit enzymes.

In South Korea, the annual spending on dementia from patient care to research stands at 16.5 trillion won, roughly 12.6 billion U.S. dollars.
This figure is expected to reach 48 billion U.S. dollars by 2040.

With more research and development,
we hope each new discovery is a step closer toward finding an effective treatment for dementia.
Lee Eunjin, Arirang News.
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