U of S research team shedding light on potential new Alzheimer’s drugs

Trial and error — a phrase Kelly Summers lives by.

Especially while her team progresses their research on potential drugs that could help those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

“The idea behind these drugs is that they would target those metals in areas of the brain,” the University of Saskatchewan Chemistry PhD student said.

“Where they have accumulated and try to restore the balance within the brain.”

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That metal is copper.

She says in Alzheimer’s patients the levels of copper hit toxic levels forming plaques in the brain.

“It’s really striking the difference the mass or size of the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient is than a normal, healthy human brain,” she said.

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U of S Geological Sciences professor and supervisor of the team, Graham George says Kelly’s work “is paving the way for understanding how the drugs based molecules function and interact with copper.”

Currently, testing is limited to lab mice.

Graphic of a mouse brain with Alzheimer’s disease.Graphic of a mouse brain with Alzheimer’s disease. Kelly Summers/ Supplied Graphic of a mouse brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease.Graphic of a mouse brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Kelly Summers/ Supplied

“This might help Alzheimer’s victims by removing some of their toxicity of the amyloid plaques,” he said.

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“So, this is a promising direction and an exciting direction.”

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“We are a long way off from actually treating people.”

He says copper is known as the “two-faced metal.”

It can behave in good ways and bad in all living things.

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Summers says progressing their work will require collaboration between all researchers around the world.

“We are moving towards what that looks like in a biological system within the brain,” she adds. “How do they interact with copper? And how might this interaction help restore the metal balance in the brain?”

Kelly Summers and supervisor Graham George at the U of S Canadian Light Source.Kelly Summers and supervisor Graham George at the U of S Canadian Light Source. David Stobbe/ Supplied Kelly Summers preparing samples at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.Kelly Summers preparing samples at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. Ashley James/ Supplied

She says the outlook is promising.

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She and her team leave the lab more optimistic each and every time.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Saskatchewan, roughly 20,000 people live with dementia in the province today.

That number jumps to roughly 747,000 affected people across the country, according to Alzheimer’s Association Canada.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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