Alzheimer’s research breakthrough

Prof Bryce Vissel, who leads the Clinical Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Initiative (CNRM) at St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research, and his team, have identified a molecule in the brain that controls loss of nerve cell connections.

This molecule we are calling ‘the switch’ is decreased in the Alzheimer’s brain but no one really understands why, or what role it plays. When ‘encouraged’ or ‘forced’ to be expressed normally again, in our laboratory tests of a mouse model, this molecule can actually rescue its memory.

“We have been able to also restore the mouse model’s synapses. Synapses refer to the points of contact between neurons where information is passed from one neuron to the next even when amyloid is present and there is inflammation in the brain, synaptic loss was restored. Like a ‘switch’ on the wall, that can be turned up or down, depending on whether we wish to keep synapses or lose them, we hope to be able to fully understand the mechanisms around this molecule so we can then find what are called “drug targets” and eventually develop drugs that can actually turn the ‘switch’ back on, and hopefully rescue the brain from synaptic loss and ultimately from Alzheimer’s disease”  says Prof Bryce Vissel.

This molecule or ‘switch’ is present in every single nerve cell. In some nerve cells, particularly in the memory centre of the brain, in Alzheimer’s disease, one nerve cell at a time is ‘turned down’ and slowly synapses start to disappear, and ultimately that nerve cell may disappear. This slow and steady process, which we believe accelerates later in the disease, is the premise of our current laboratory based research focus.” Prof Bryce Vissel says:

“We are not only focused on the abstract, everything we do revolves around how we can move closer to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and make a contribution to the global effort to solve this dilemma. We are sincerely grateful to our wonderful family of supporters and their foresight in supporting such ground-breaking work.”

If you would like to find out further information on our research, please contact Chris Lewis at the Foundation –