IIT Guwahati researchers discover new ways to prevent memory loss due to Alzheimer’s
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati are working on inventive, out-of-the-box ideas that can help prevent or lower short-term memory losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Developing a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is critical for a country like India which has the third largest number of Alzheimer’s patients in the world after China and the United States. Over four million Indians are affected by the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Available treatments help alleviate some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and as yet there is no pathbreaking therapeutic approach that can treat the underlying causes of the disease. This makes the methods developed by the research team at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, very promising.
Cure for Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive
The team, headed by Prof. Vibin Ramakrishnan, Professor, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering and Prof. Harshal Nemade, Professor, Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, studies the neurochemical principles of Alzheimer’s, and explore new ways to prevent accumulation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain. These are associated with short-term memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the methods developed by the IIT Guwahati team include application of low-voltage electric field, and use of ‘trojan peptides’ to arrest the accumulation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain. Results of their studies have been published in reputed journals like ACS Chemical Neuroscience, RSC Advances of Royal Society of Chemistry, BBA and Neuropeptides.
“Approximately hundred potential drugs for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have failed between 1998 and 2011, which shows the gravity of the problem,” says Dr. Ramakrishnan, who participates in worldwide efforts at finding cures for the disease.
A defining characteristic of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of Amyloid beta peptides in the brain. Dr. Ramakrishnan and Dr. Nemade are looking at methods to reduce this in order to arrest the progression of Alzeimer’s.
In 2019, the IIT Guwahati scientists found that application of a low-voltage, safe electrical field can reduce the formation and accumulation of toxic neurodegenerative molecules that cause short-term memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. External electric/magnetic field modulate the structure of these peptide molecules, preventing aggregation.
Further testing in animals needed
“Upon exposure to electric field, we could retard the degeneration of nerve cells to an extent of 17–35%”, said Dr Ramakrishnan. “Objectively, this would translate to about 10 years delay in the onset of the disease”.
The scientists then explored the possibility of using ‘Trojan peptides’ to arrest aggregation of these neurotoxic molecules. The idea of using ‘Trojan peptide’ comes from mythological “Trojan Horse” used by the Greeks to deceive the enemy in the Battle of Troy. The team has designed Trojan peptides by adopting a similar approach to stop the accumulation of amyloid peptide and reduce poisoning of nerve cells that leads to memory loss.
There will be further testing in animal models and clinical trials before bringing in such new approaches into human treatment”, said Dr. Nemade, who is one of the project coordinators.
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