A nasal spray containing specialized fatty acids may be the answer to preventing Alzheimer’s disease, a new study finds. Researchers say the treatment successfully stopped memory loss and brain degeneration in an experimental model of Alzheimer’s — the most common form of dementia in older adults.
The team from LSU Health New Orleans and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden says the intranasal treatment uses pro-resolving lipid mediators to protect the brain from cognitive decline. These lipids are fatty acids, like omega-3, which are capable of easing inflammation.
This benefit is critical because neuroinflammation is a key symptom of neurodegenerative disorders like dementia. Dr. Nicolas Bazan from LSU Health discovered that neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) is one of the lipid mediators which protects the brain.
Previous studies by Bazan’s team have found that NPD1 also protects against retinal damage and the effects of a stroke. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, study authors say NPD1 levels in the memory area of the brain are very low.
Stopping inflammation in the brain is key
Researchers explain that undoing inflammation is no easy task. It takes mediators, cell subtypes, and communication pathways all working together to do it.
Specifically, cell communications which order the body’s protective mechanisms to turn on are necessary. This silences pro-inflammatory signaling pathways in the body. The team notes that NPD1 are one of the main signaling molecules in this process.
Dr. Bazan’s team believes their findings point to a noninvasive treatment that may prevent not just Alzheimer’s, but other diseases which start with brain inflammation as well.
“AD lacks prevention or cure and exerts a horrendous toll on patients and their families due to crippling progression and devastating adverse events,” Bazan says in a university release. “Millions of Americans currently suffer from AD, and the number is expected to escalate rapidly in the coming years.”
The partnership between LSU and the Karolinska Institutet is also looking into the unique signals in the cerebral spinal fluid which protect the brain from dementia onset.
“This productive collaboration is uncovering important aspects of early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and the novel evolving mechanisms are promising paths for innovative therapies like the one disclosed in the current paper,” says Professor Marianne Schultzberg, Senior Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society at the Karolinska Institutet.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. That’s more than the number of deaths due to breast and prostate cancer combined.
The study is published in the journal Communications Biology.