Catalyzing Solutions: Understanding a cure for Alzheimer’s

By DURGA BALASUBRAMANIYAN

Many phenomena that we observe in our everyday lives can be explained with scientific concepts. Similarly, many challenges that we observe in areas such as the environment or medicine are addressed using these ideas. The goal of this weekly column is to inform readers on some of these scientific concepts and illustrate the research that is currently being done at Colorado College to address these problems.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that is often characterized by memory loss. This means that the disease affects the nervous system, specifically the brain and its neurons, by causing it to deteriorate.

The disease is very common, with approximately 50 million people living with the condition worldwide. This statistic is expected to increase to 75 million people by 2030 and 131.5 million people by 2050. Due to the growing population of Alzheimer’s patients, there has been an emphasis on finding a cure. To do so, many labs focus their attention toward both developing drugs and preparing clinical trials in order to find the most compatible and effective medicine for humans.     

One drug currently in development is called Leukine. To understand how Leukine works, it is important to comprehend how Alzheimer’s manifests within the brain. There is a buildup of plaque deposits within the brain that are harmful to the cells. Leukine is thought to target these plaque deposits and break them down, ultimately getting rid of them. Mice models are often utilized to figure out if Leukine is actually doing what we think is happening.

The lab where I worked over the summer did just this, where different mice models — those with Alzheimer’s, those without Alzheimer’s, those with Down Syndrome, etc. — were given with Leukine to observe if there was an improvement in the cognitive function of the mice. Similar to other studies, we were able to observe a growth in the mice’s abilities.

Current research is now looking at how the drug works within humans to make sure it is efficient and carries out the proper job without negative impacts on the body. The advancement of the drug into clinical trials is just one step in the overall goal of finding a cure for a global disease.

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