Alzheimer’s Disease Remedied in a Human Cell Study: Is a Cure on the Horizon?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

alzheimer's disease remedied

Dementia has always been near and dear to my heart, since my Dad had a rare form called diffuse Lewy body. I saw my mother hang in there until the bitter end, and watching him deteriorate was awful. So when research gets published that shows that science could one day cure this problem, I pay attention. This new study focuses on curing the brain cells that are dysfunctional. Let me explain.

Alzheimer’s Disease: The Most Common Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease, also known as senile dementia, is the most common form of dementia. It’s progressive and debilitating as it destroys brain cells and, therefore, memory and many other cognitive functions. Some of the more common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include forgetting routine tasks, conversations, family names, and so on; inability to perform everyday tasks correctly, such as driving, cooking, grooming; and changes in behavior and emotion (e.g., depression, delusions, mood swings).

What causes Alzheimer’s? While there are many risk factors for the disease, such as age, head trauma, lifestyle, and so on, the primary risk factor is believed to be genetic due to the presence of the ApoE4 gene.

What Is the ApoE Gene?

The Apolipoprotein E gene (ApoE) is a protein that comes in three potential forms: ApoE2, ApoE3, or ApoE4. While all three ApoE proteins can be beneficial, transporting important vitamins, fats, and so on throughout the body, ApoE4, in particular, is a protein that can go bad. The presence of the ApoE4 gene (which has the blueprints for making ApoE4) puts those that have a copy at double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. And for those who happen to have two copies of ApoE4, one from each parent, there’s three to five times the risk for developing this devastating disease.

It’s important to note here that simply having the ApoE4 gene doesn’t guarantee an Alzheimer’s diagnosis later in life; it is a predisposition. Like many things, actually getting the disease is based on a combination of having the gene and a bad environment. Everything from lack of exercise, to a high-carb American diet, to living near a major highway throwing off noxious exhaust chemicals can seal the deal. This is called an epigenetic risk.

So if you have this ApoE4 gene, you need to take great care of your brain and body. Even if you have the ApoE2 or ApoE3 genes, depending on the genetic combinations inherited, there is also some Alzheimer’s risk, but it’s slight or minimal compared to the ApoE4 gene.

Knowing that ApoE4 is the primary genetic culprit here when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, let’s take a look at the new research.

Researchers May Be on the Cusp of an Alzheimer’s Cure

The new study was conducted on human stem cells from both Alzheimer’s and healthy subjects. The Alzheimer’s subjects had two copies of the ApoE4 gene, while the healthy subjects had two copies of the ApoE3 gene.

First, researchers investigated why the ApoE4 gene increases risk and found that the gene produces an increased amount of the amyloid beta protein. This is significant because we know that this protein forms those plaques on the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s. This can happen when amyloid nerve cell proteins become misfolded and form clumps that then deposit as those plaques on the brain (leading to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s—read more about this at this link). The bigger discovery here, however, is that researchers also were able to eradicate Alzheimer’s in the human cells by using a small molecule to convert the ApoE4 protein structure to ApoE3. Whenever you see the phrase “small molecule” that’s scientific code for “we can make a drug”.

So with Alzheimer’s Disease remedied in a Human Cell Study, is this a cure for Alzheimer’s? The researchers plan to continue their work via clinical trials on human patients (rather than just human cell samples), so it will be exciting news if these findings are confirmed in patients and could potentially put us on the cusp of an Alzheimer’s treatment and cure. We’ll continue to follow.

Environmental Links to Alzheimer’s Dementia

While Alzheimer’s dementia is directly linked to genetic susceptibility, there are also environmental impacts that seem to hasten its onset. Studies have shown that those who are already at a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease also have a much higher risk of cognitive decline following surgery with general anesthesia. Another interesting link to Alzheimer’s disease is the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A few years ago, research was published that found a strong association between Alzheimer’s and NSAIDs, such as Celebrex. Another interesting study I covered last year actually linked Alzheimer’s dementia to car-exhaust toxins. While it might sound far-fetched, this was government-funded research on Alzheimer’s that studied the health effects of highway traffic on over two million people who lived close to highways. They found a direct connection between Alzheimer’s and subjects who lived closest to heavily traveled highways.

So certainly if you carry the ApoE4 gene, it’s best to limit environmental exposures that are linked to Alzheimer’s dementia.

The upshot? If just giving people a small molecule to fix the structure of the ApoE protein fixes Alzheimer’s, that could be the biggest discovery since penicillin. Back in the ’40s, the leading cause of death was an infection; today it’s chronic disease due to a combo of bad genes, a toxic environment, lousy eating, and no exercise. Hence, learning how to fix chronic disease is the new panacea.

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10 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Disease Remedied in a Human Cell Study: Is a Cure on the Horizon?

  1. Cal Peters

    Could this be an artifact of the protein that ApoE4 codes for, has a propensity for mis-folding?

  2. Robt C

    In connection with your article on Alzheimer’s, how can we test to see if we have the ApoE4 Gene?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Robt,

      Apr 6, 2017 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today allowed marketing of 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk (GHR) tests for 10 diseases or conditions. … “Consumers can now have direct access to certain genetic risk information,” Alzheimer’s and the ApoE4 gene is among those tested for.

  3. Jason

    Good article.

    Also, one environmental factor of Alzheimers, that is more frequently overlooked, is the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease. Kris Kristofferson was misdiagnosed with Alzheimers until he was treated for Lyme – and luckily made a dramatic and rapid recovery, it seems.
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kris-kristofferson-misdiagnosed-alzheimers-has-lyme-disease/

    In that same regard, has Regenexx treated patients with “Lyme Arthritis” successfully?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Jason,
      We have treated several Lyme patients who have done well because we avoid injecting IV and instead inject only locally into the specific structures that need the cells. However, there is no research on how Lyme impacts stem cell health and capabilities.

  4. Cary Van Haaren

    I am confused about your cited link to NSAIDS such as Celebrex and dementia. The PubMed cite doesn’t clearly say that NSAIDS can contribute to AD.

    This link indicates that they might be slightly beneficial, which is what I’ve read in the past, due to reduced inflammation in the brain:
    https://www.alzforum.org/therapeutics/celecoxib

    1. Regenexx Team

      Cary,
      Here’s the link in the blog for the previous blog on the study that showed increased risk with Celebrex. “Contrary to the hypothesis that NSAIDs protect against AD, pharmacy-defined heavy NSAID users showed increased incidence of dementia and AD” https://regenexx.com/blog/nsaids-and-alzheimers-disease/ Controlling inflammation as we get older is very important. https://regenexx.com/blog/controlling-middle-old-aged-inflammation-critically-important/ But it’s the mechanism used to take down inflammation which is crucial. While that mechanism in NSAIDS is damaging (they also cause the production of defective cartilage, https://regenexx.com/blog/nsaids-and-stem-cells/ and have a whole host of other problems: https://regenexx.com/blog/finally-new-fda-heart-and-stroke-nsaid-warning/ ), the mechanism of Curcumin is positive. It stimulates stem cells to produce good cartilage, https://regenexx.com/blog/does-curcumin-work/ and back in 2014 it was found to promote healing in neurons: https://regenexx.com/blog/turmeric-compound-found-to-regenerate-neurons/ It is being looked at very seriously in current research for Alzheimer’s.

  5. Richard L Behr

    Chris
    How can one be tested for the ApoE4 protein structure ?
    Thanks
    Rich Behr

    1. Regenexx Team

      Richard,

      About a year ago the U.S. FDA allowed the marketing of the 23andMe Personal Genome Service Genetic Health Risk (GHR) tests for 10 diseases or conditions so that “Consumers can now have direct access to certain genetic risk information.” Alzheimer’s and the ApoE4 gene and its variants are among those tested for.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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