Alzheimer’s Disease affects memory, thinking, and behavior, primarily in people over sixty-five years old. Over five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms are progressive and get worse over time. Eventually they start to interfere with daily tasks. There comes a point when individuals with Alzheimer’s can no longer carry a conversation or interact with their environment, let alone lead a normal life or care for themselves. Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a Swiss company that specializes in physical sciences and engineering, may have just created a potential future treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, or EPFL, have developed a new capsule to potentially prevent the degenerative nature of the disease. Patients who have Alzheimer’s disease have a buildup of the protein amyloid beta, referred to as “plaques”. This creates a toxic environment for neurons, resulting in a breakdown in neuron connection and lost memory. The capsule’s purpose would be to release a flow of antibodies into the bloodstream, directed towards the brain that would clear out the plaques of amyloid beta proteins. The capsule would be made of materials compatible with the body in order to protect it from the patient’s immune system, and would contain cells that would be genetically engineered to produce the antibodies needed over time. It would be implanted under the patient’s skin to give it access to the bloodstream.
The idea of the capsule came from a current way doctors fight plaque growth, which has had promising results. That method involved “tagging” the proteins and using the patient’s immune system to break the plaques down. However, the treatment is only useful if the disease is caught in its earliest stages and involves repeated vaccinations, which tend to have side effects. The capsule could eradicate both of those concerns.
The capsule, however, is still in the early stages of production. EPFL has done trials on mice, testing how the capsule would do over a course of thirty-nine weeks. So far, they’ve had an incredible amount of success lowering the levels of the amyloid beta proteins, as well as reducing the “phosphorylation of the protein tau” or “tangles”, which is another symptom of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, while the testing is still in its early stages, the success with the mice stands as a “proof-of-concept”, meaning the capsule could be a legitimate breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research. The reduction of the amyloid beta proteins could be a concept that cures patients of the disease in the future, potentially sparing millions of people.