'Of Mice & Men' Determining Cause & Treatment of Alzheimer's
Robert Burns, the Scottish poet in his 1785 poem 'To A Mouse…' asserts "the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew. . . the present only touches you." in contrast, man is constantly plagued with regrets of the past and fear of the future, and we often lose sight of how we relate to other creatures on the planet. Those poignant words have new meaning today as man is learning a potential new cause and treatment for a disease that robs of us our cognitive abilities.
Two different research studies with the able assistance of laboratory mice might actually help us eventually eradicate a dreadful disease that has plagued man for centuries.
Protein vs Plaque
Alzheimer's Disease, long believed to have been caused by sticky plaques that coat brain cells may really be the result of free-floating clumps of protein. For the last 20 years, following the prevailing theory to have caused the disease, according to an AARP report, Sam Gandy, MD is now taking another approach.
Plaques are no longer where the action is,” says Sam Gandy, M.D., of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Gandy’s work builds on several years of research that has been moving science toward this new theory. And if this line of research is correct, then drugs that target plaques—as most medications have done in the past few years—won’t help people who have the disease. In fact, it could even make them worse.
Gandy’s work with specially engineered mice—which developed Alzheimer’s though they had only clumps of the amyloid beta protein, and no plaques in their brains—“is the final experiment that’s making the whole field turn around,” says Andrew Dillin of the Salk Institute of California and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
In another study, that sounds a little bit more quirky… after years of speculation that cell phones may harm your brain, new research suggests it might actually fight Alzheimer's disease.
Microwave radiation from cell phones may protect against and even reverse Alzheimer's-like symptoms, according to a new study involving genetically tweaked mice.The results were so surprising that study co-author Juan Sanchez-Ramos didn't believe them at first.
"It's such a dramatic and counter-intuitive effect," said Sanchez-Ramos, a University of South Florida neuroscientist.
In his experiments, scientists examined the effects of cell phone radiation on 96 mice that were genetically engineered to develop beta amyloid plaques and thus Alzheimer's-like symptoms. The mice normally developed the first signs of the disease around 6 months. By 8 months they were already experiencing cognitive declines.
Both the Alzheimer's-prone mice and normal mice were then exposed to cell phone-level microwave radiation for two one-hour periods daily for seven to nine months. The study found that if cell phone exposure began before the genetically engineered mice started showing signs of Alzheimer's, they were less likely to develop symptoms later on in life.
So whether it's free-floating protein vs sticky plaques or cell-phones' microwave radiation, it's encouraging to know that our little furry friends continue to serve a purpose in helping us to understand and hopefully eliminate this life-altering disease.
When John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men from the line contained in the penultimate stanza of Robert Burns' poem, I think both writers understood the inter-connectivity of mice and men, and how sometimes the strong loses sight of what the weaker animals on this planet are capable of.
(Note: For other articles on Alzheimer's Disease - please check out T.Goodman's blog postings.)