Alzheimer's may begin in liver

A brain plaque caused by deposit of amyloid in the nerve cells of the brain.

The plaques, believed to be characteristic of the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease, starts in the liver rather than in the brain, a new study says.

Amyloid, the main substance in brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, originates from the liver, not the brain. The mind robbing disease, thus, can be treated outside the brain, said researchers at the Scripps Research Institute and ModGene, L.L.C. 

Greg Sutcliffe and colleagues used a mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease to identify the genes that influence the amount of amyloid accumulated in the brain.

Three genes protect mice from the accumulation and deposition of amyloid in the brain. Lower expression of these genes in the liver prevents the formation of amyloid plaques in the mouse’s brain, the scientists wrote in the Journal of Neuroscience Research.

“We reasoned that if brain amyloid was being born in the liver and transported to the brain by the blood, then that should be the case in all mice and one would predict in humans, too,” said Sutcliffe, adding that blocking the production of beta amyloid in the liver may protect the brain.

Injecting Gleevec, a new drug used for treating leukemia and gastrointestinal tumors, reduces the production of beta amyloid both in the blood and brain of the studied AD mice, the study found.

“This unexpected finding holds promise for the development of new therapies to fight Alzheimer’s,” the lead author said.”This could greatly simplify the challenge of developing therapies and prevention.”

Mar 5, 2011,

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