Alzheimer's study leap

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 16 Maret 2013 | 19.55

Researcher Dr Kaylene Young, left, with Bubbles Haynes, of Kettering, whose husband suffers from Alzheimer's. Picture: KIM EISZELE

A TASMANIAN scientist has found that crucial insulating cells in the nervous system can be made throughout life, providing a new lead for Alzheimer's research.

Menzies Research Institute Tasmania researcher Kaylene Young was the study's chief investigator and worked with Japan and United Kingdom scientists.

She said there was now evidence these cells may not just be "passive by-standers".

The research showed new insulating cells were made from an immature cell type found in the brain and new insulation was added to brain circuits every day.

"This process is likely to be very important for learning, memory, vision and co-ordination," Dr Young said.

"This finding may have important implications for sufferers of Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders."

In Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, many nerve cells die, causing patients to progressively lose their ability to think clearly and remember things, and they can have problems with movement and co-ordination.

Dr Young's team was now investigating ways to hijack the natural ability of the immature cells to make new insulating cells, and repair the insulation damage.

"We expect that increasing brain insulation, to re-wrap the nerve cells, will prevent more nerve cells from dying."

Bubbles Haynes's husband John was diagnosed eight years ago and has recently moved to a Snug secure dementia unit, which Mrs Haynes has praised for his care.

"It's researchers like Dr Kaylene Young who give us the chance to hope, which is absolutely beautiful," Mrs Haynes said.

The work was published in Neuron and supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council Australia, Alzheimer's Society UK, BUPA Foundation, and Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia.

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