Chemical Stops Dementia (At Least in Mice)

Treatments for dementia have been slow to develop. They’re nonexistent, even. We’ve learned a lot about prevention in recent years, and innovative new therapies make the dementia experience more tolerable for patients. But there’s been almost nothing in the way of medicinal intervention, let alone a cure.

Duke University might be set to change all that. In a new study, they’ve discovered that a chemical injection can effectively halt dementia in its tracks. The trials have been a success so far… but the only subjects are mice.

Researchers previously found that human patients with dementia experience a weakening in their immune system at the disease’s outset. That weakening may be responsible for dementia’s strong grip, as the brain isn’t able to protect itself as well as usual.

At the heart of the issue is an amino acid called arginine. Scientists know that there’s a relationship between arginine deficit and dementia, but until now, they haven’t been able to do anything with that connection. Now, Duke’s researchers say that a chemical injection can block the enzyme that breaks down arginine, effectively preventing the potentially causative deficit.

For more on the science behind it all, read the

Experts are quick to caution that the effects in mice may not translate to humans. And even in the rodents, they don’t yet know for how long the treatment can stave off Alzheimer’s.

Still, the news is exciting. It’s one of the first major, truly exciting developments in the otherwise lacking field of dementia treatment. Let’s hope the future sees a lot more good news unfold from this story.

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