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Growth factor protects key brain cells in Alzheimer's models
Date:2/8/2009

demonstration of the effectiveness and safety of BDNF administration in animals provides "a rationale for exploring clinical translation" to humans, the team concludes, suggesting that the protective and restorative effects of BDNF on damaged neurons and neuronal signaling may offer a new approach to treating Alzheimer's disease.

This work builds on previous studies by Tuszynski and others, demonstrating the therapeutic affects of nerve growth factor (NGF) administered to patients with Alzheimer's disease. In 2001, Tuszynski and his team at UC San Diego Medical Center performed the first surgical implants of NGF genes into the brains of Alzheimer's patients, with follow-up results showing these patients experienced a possible slowing in cognitive decline and increased metabolic function in the brain. The NGF studies continue today, with Phase 2, multi-center studies currently underway.

"NGF therapy aims to stimulate the function of specific cholinergic neurons, which are like the air traffic controllers of the brain, helping to direct the activities of cells in broad regions of the brain," Tuszynski explained. However, he added that the benefits of NGF therapy, if validated in ongoing trials, will not be curative. Eventually, the effect of the NGF "boost" will be countered by the widespread death of neurons in the cerebral cortex as a result of advancing Alzheimer's disease.

"In contrast, BDNF acts directly on dying cells in specific memory circuits of the brain," Tuszynski said. "In this series of studies, we have shown that BDNF targets the cortical cells themselves, preventing their death, stimulating their function, and improving learning and memory. Thus, BDNF treatment can potentially provide long-lasting protection by slowing, or even stopping disease progression in the cortical regions that receive treatment."

The protective and restorative effects of BDNF occurred independently of the build-up of amyloid, a protei
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Contact: Debra Kain
ddkain@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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