Research aims to slow, cure Alzheimer’s disease

The Alzheimer’s Association recently awarded U professor Gang Liu a $240,000 grant to research new methods in reducing an ailment in the brain that researchers suspect leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Liu said an important contributor to Alzheimer’s disease may be excess metal ions in the brain that cause oxidative stress and lead to neurodegeneration.

Liu, a research assistant professor in the U’s radiobiology division, said he believes that one of the keys to treating Alzheimer’s disease is using new technology to successfully reduce the metal ions, or chelation therapy. Chelation therapy uses drugs to reduce excessive metal ions in the brain that increase oxidative stress levels. However, the therapy often doesn’t work.

“When drugs for chelation therapy enter the brain to reduce excess metal ions, they are often stopped by a blood brain barrier in the brain designed to prevent them from entering,” Liu said.

By using nanotechnology, Liu said small particles could be engineered to cross the barrier uninhibited and ultimately reduce the metal ions in the brain.

“We really needed the support of the grant to help speed up our studies — right now there is no cure for Alzheimer’s,” said Liu.

Despite the promising research, there is little chance that a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease will be available in the near future. Approximately 26 million people worldwide are suffering from the disease with no hope of treatment.

“No one knows what causes the disease, we only have theories as to how it develops,” Liu said

“We believe Dr. Liu’s research will have positive results in eventually slowing down Alzheimer’s disease or at least helping others understand more about it,” said Edward Zamrini, a professor at the Alzheimer’s Center at the U.

The next step is studying mice who have been genetically altered to have excess metal ions in their brains. The study will learn whether nanotechnology will have a positive effect on limiting the ions and ultimately reducing oxidative stress in the brain.

“Even if we find a way to slow down the disease, it will be a very good thing for patients with Alzheimer’s and other researchers studying the disease,” Liu said.

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