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Kolkata: Probing the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), known as a silent killer, has been made easier by Indian scientists here who have developed a non-biological platform for assessing the efficacy of potential drugs and the way they work. The new technique enabled the successful testing of two soon-to-be patented drugs.
Thanks to the researchers, it has become easy to study the role of toxic metals like copper and iron, which trigger aggregations or clumps in the brain called amyloid plaques — the diagnostic feature of AD.
“The approach used by us was unique in that one can mimic the biological system on a surface. We do not need to immediately screen living organisms. These artificial scaffolds can be used to pre-screen drugs targeting these toxic metals,” Abhishek Dey of the Department of Inorganic Chemistry, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), said.
IACS is India’s oldest research institute in suburbam Jadavpur. “It also allowed us to test two soon-to-be patented drugs and thereby establish that they were effective in lowering the toxicity of these metals and may serve as therapeutic agents,” said co-researcher Somdatta Ghosh Dey.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia over the age of 65, slowly gets worse over time.
Patients initially show mild symptoms including some memory loss. But as the disease progresses more severe memory loss occur leading to confusion and disorientation.
In later stages, patients may have to be institutionalised and are bedridden.
After 65, the risk of dementia doubles every five years.
It is estimated that over 3.7 million people in India are affected by dementia. This is expected to double by 2030.
The hallmark of AD is the abnormally large accumulation of a protein normally present in the brain called amyloid beta or A-beta peptide that forms amyloid plaques. Certain metals like copper and iron are supposed to trigger the aggregation of the peptides into clumps or plaques.
These toxic metals bind to the A-beta peptide which leads to the generation of toxic substances in turn, partially reduced oxygen species (PROS). PROS enter cells and wreak havoc by damaging proteins, lipids and DNA. This is termed as oxidative stress.