February 28, 2013
Researchers at the University of Florida and The Johns Hopkins University have developed a line of genetically altered mice that model the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This model may help scientists identify new therapies to provide relief to patients who are beginning to experience symptoms.
The researchers worked with mice that had specially designed gene fragments derived from bacteria and from humans that allowed the investigators to control the production of a small peptide. The peptide, called amyloid beta peptide, is a short chain of amino acids. Accumulations of this particular peptide in the brain as lesions called plaques occur early in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and seem to trigger the early memory problems.
The team regulated the expression of the peptide using antibiotics — when the animals stopped taking the antibiotic, the peptide-producing gene turned on and caused the mice to develop the plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients. After the mice had developed the Alzheimer pathology, the researchers turned the gene back off and observed that the mice showed persistent memory problems that resemble the early stages of the disease.
Courtesy: University of Florida