Scientists create cells that disolve Alzheimer’s plaque

Genetically engineered cells, that produce an enzyme that disolves the toxic plaques associated with AlzheimerÂ’s disease, have been produced by scientists.

The researchers used mice which they infected with a human gene that caused them to develop, at an accelerated rate, the disease that robs millions of elderly people of their memories. After receiving the doctored cells, the brain-muddling plaques melted away. If this works in humans, old age could be a much happier time of life.

AlzheimerÂ’s involves a protein called amyloid-beta, which makes up gooey clots or plaques that form in the brain. These toxic clumps, along with accessory tangled fibers, kill brain cells and interfere with memory and thinking. The situation has been compared to a build-up of cholesterol in coronary arteries.

“Delivery of genes that led to production of an enzyme that breaks up amyloid showed robust clearance of plaques in the brains of the mice,” notes Dennis Selkoe, Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School. “These results support and encourage further investigation of gene therapy for treatment of this common and devastating disease in humans.”

The first published report of the experiments, done by Selkoe and other researchers from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and WomenÂ’s and McLean hospitals, appeared Aug. 27 on the Web site of the Public Library of Science.

The gene delivery technique employed by the research team has been used in several other trials with animals that model human diseases, including cancers. The procedure involves removing cells from patients, making genetic changes, and then putting back the modified cells, which should treat a disease or disability. So far, this approach has produced encouraging results for cancers, blood, muscle, and eye diseases, spinal cord injuries, stroke, Parkinson’s and Huntington diseases, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). “Several of these potential treatments have advanced to human trials, with encouraging outcomes for patients,” says Matthew Hemming, lead author of the report and a graduate student in Selkoe’s lab.

Another way to do gene therapy involves using a virus to carry the curative gene to target cells. However, two people have died and three contracted leukemia in experiments using this method. The drawback of using viruses this way is that the added gene often mixes with the patientÂ’s genome in ways that can lead to unwanted side effects, including cancer and, possibly, death.

The Harvard team used skin cells from the animal’s own body to introduce a gene for an amyloid-busting enzyme known as neprilysin. The skin cells, also known as fibroblasts, “do not form tumors or move from the implantation site,” Hemming notes. “They cause no detectable adverse side effects and can easily be taken from a patient’s skin.” In addition, other genes can be added to the fibroblast-neprilysin combo, which will eliminate the implants if something starts to go wrong.
Will it work in humans?

This method worked well in the Alzheimer’s experiments. “The gene that removed the amyloid-beta may not only prevent brain cells from dying, but will also remove the toxic protein that drives the disease progression,” Hemming comments.

The experiments proved that the technique works, but will it work in humans? One major obstacle, Selkoe says, is the larger size of a human brain compared to that of a mouse. That difference will require an increase of amyloid-busting activity throughout a much larger space.

One solution might involve implanting the genes and fibroblasts where they have the best access to amyloid-beta, in the spinal fluid for example, instead of trying to inject them into a small target. The amyloid-killing combo might be put into capsules that would secrete neprilysin into the blood circulating in the brain, eliminating the need to hit an exact spot.

This or some other clever maneuver that does not require surgery might eliminate the gooey plaques, but will that improve a person’s memory? And will the change be long-lasting? “Further work is needed to determine if reducing the plaque burden has cognitive benefits over a long period,” notes Hemming, “but there’s a wealth of evidence arguing that it will.”

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Are toxic metals making you ill?


Alarmingly, we unwittingly ingest far more toxic metals daily than what our bodyÂ’s can eliminate. In a recent study 278 heavy metals and other toxins were found in the blood of newborn babies, an indication of just how many there may be in a fully grown adults body.

These metals accumulate in our tissues and organs, building up to dangerous levels that kick open the doors of chronic, degenerative diseases such as cancer, MS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The increased prevalence of heavy metal toxins in the human body is almost certainly a direct result of todayÂ’s modern society.

Astonishingly, it is no longer a case of whether an individual has been exposed to toxins but rather the level of exposure to heavy metals that the body has experienced. Dangerous toxins are present in the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil in which our food is grown. Most people are completely unaware of the common sources of heavy metals and more worryingly are oblivious to the real physiological and psychological dangers that these toxins posses.

Aluminum, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Thallium and Uranium are some of the most commonly known heavy metals and there are a number of ways in which these can be absorbed into the body. Each toxin can attack specific organs and often the dangers of these heavy metals can go unnoticed until problems develop later in life. Ranging from headaches, hypertension and fatigue to more serious health and neuro-psychiatric disturbances for example, depression or even infertility, the effects of these are varied and pose serious risks to our health.

Undoubtedly one of the most common and most dangerous heavy metals released into our environment is mercury, this can be found in fish products (especially tuna, sea bass and Halibut), amalgam tooth fillings, certain vaccinations, fluorescent lights, manufacturing plants, hospitals, and clinical thermometers.

Mercury vapour is easily absorbed into the body, and once taken into the bloodstream can affect the kidneys and liver but have a natural affinity for the nervous system causing problems such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons, Altzheimers. Symptoms of Mercury poisoning include

– Impairment of peripheral version
– ‘Pins and NeedlesÂ’ feelings
– Impairment of speech, hearing and walking
– Muscle Weakness
– Skin Rashes
– Mood Swings
– Memory loss

During pregnancy, women who also eat just a single highly contaminated portion of fish can expose their child to mercury toxins, which travel through the placenta to potentially harm the developing nervous system and the brain. Also, vaccinations can contain a mercury preservative called Thimerosol which are commonly given to young babies, even though this product has now been banned in a lot of vaccinations.

Extensive research has shown that many vegetables can also contain potentially high levels of lead, due to the absorption of petrochemicals when grown near roads. Lead competes with calcium in the body and can lead to serious neuropsychiatric symptoms such as insomnia, temper tantrums, lowered IQ and difficulty with reading and writing.

Disturbingly, the growth stimulator which is occasionally fed to chickens can contain high levels of arsenic. Subsequently, many families are as risk of toxic poisoning simply from consuming a traditional family favourite.

Says Dr George Georgiou “With today’s modern society taking its toll on our bodies, there seems to be a very real need to increase awareness surrounding the issues of heavy metals. It cannot be a mere coincidence that diseases such as cancer and other serious ailments are on the rise. It is imperative that ignorance be alleviated and people become aware of the dangers. Simple proactive steps such as eating organic food and taking a heavy metal chelator supplement can ensure that levels of exposure are minimized.”

Research has shown that the problems surrounding heavy metals will continue to grow especially with the development of technology in todayÂ’s society. The importance is to raise awareness and it is paramount to highlight the dangers of the hidden killers present in our food.

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