According to the Alzheimer’s Association facts & figures of 2015, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented, cured or slowed, but researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) made a discovery that could mean hope for those currently with or at risk for the disease.
Researchers have discovered individuals treated with calcineurin inhibitors (specifically FK506/Tacrolimus), drugs commonly used to prevent organ transplant rejection, are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Evidence from the experiment suggests that the calcineurin facilitates the action of the toxic amyloid-β oligomers, a protein thought to mark the beginning of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
Mice affected by a model of Alzheimer’s and mice injected with amyloid-β oligomers were treated with the calcineurin inhibitor. Researchers observed improved synaptic efficiency in addition to restored memory function following treatment.
Though the results suggested a very positive outcome for the mice, there was a challenge to test the hypothesis directly on human Alzheimer’s patients. To avoid adding unnecessary risk to patients, researchers came up with an alternative – Instead of testing new patients with the calcineurin inhibitor, they began analyzing patients of all ages who had received organ transplants and were already taking the drug regularly. After receiving an organ transplant, patients are monitored for many years in transplant centers leaving behind many carefully detailed reports. In these reports, any change in memory impairment or development of dementia is recorded as the advancement of Alzheimer’s can interfere with consent of treatment.
Analysis of the reports from the organ transplant center clearly showed the occurrence of dementia in those individuals is significantly lower (almost absent!) compared to national and regional (State of Texas) data regarding Alzheimer’s frequency.
The results of the research suggest that calcineurin inhibitors help prevent and possibly begin to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s regardless of increasing age or risk for the disease.
If you’d like to read the official scientific article published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease please follow the link below.