Inquest is an online research publication that is updated often to highlight research stories, events and other relevant news at Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies.
On February 22, 2012, the Obama administration declared Alzheimer's disease as "one of the most feared health conditions" and issued a draft plan on the nation's first strategic course of action to fight the rise of the mind-destroying disease. With over 5 million Americans already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the toll being forecasted to reach up to 16 million by 2050, the government has issued a goal to find effective diagnostic and treatment methods for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. In addition, the government has ramped up research efforts by budgeting an extra $50 million to the National Institute of Health’s dementia research.
As a growing concern among aging Americans and the only major disease with an increasing death rate (the death rates for cancer, stroke and heart disease are declining- Alzheimer’s Association, Facts and Figures, 2011), Alzheimer’s disease research has become one of the hottest topics in biomedical research. In collaboration with Alzheimer’s Community Care, Torrey Pines Institute’s Associate Member of Neurobiology, Dr. Madepalli Lakshmana presented his research and goals to a group of 150 caretakers and staff at the Treasure Coast Hospice Center in Fort Pierce, Florida. Dr. Lakshmana’s research aims to find disease modifying therapy through the understanding of molecular mechanisms responsible for the generation and accumulation of toxic amyloid beta peptide within the amyloid plaques. The aggregation of amyloid beta peptide in the form of insoluble clumps is considered to be responsible for the reduced synaptic connections as well as massive loss of healthy neurons within the brain that leads to loss of memory, the primary feature of the disease.
In spite of rigorous research efforts worldwide, there are currently no drugs available that can effectively reverse or at least slow down the loss of memory in Alzheimer’s disease patients. The loss of synapses due to accumulation of amyloid beta peptide is an early event in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease which closely correlates with cognitive decline and memory loss. Therefore, Dr. Lakshmana’s goal is to identify all the proteins responsible for increasing amyloid beta peptide followed by identification of small molecule compounds that can effectively disrupt interactions between proteins. Such inhibitors are designed to prevent loss of synapses and neuronal death which in turn are expected to completely relieve memory loss and other personality changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
These facts were presented to the caretakers and staff at Alzheimer’s Community Care, which were met with great applause and thanks.
“Our Alzheimer’s families’ thirst for knowledge about the latest research is never ending,” stated Mary Barnes, President/CEO of Alzheimer’s Community Care. “Dr. Madepalli Lakshmana presented priceless information that was greatly appreciated by our attendees. He conveyed his message - that a cure is well within our future - so eloquently and with such conviction. His presentation helped to make our caregivers’ experience at the conference so worthwhile and meaningful.”
Dr. Lakshmana responded with excitement and satisfaction of increasing awareness. “This is the first time the government has recognized Alzheimer’s disease as a social problem. The problem is a complex one, with genetic, demographic, social and lifestyle risk factors to consider. We have the tools at Torrey Pines Institute and, with the support of government grant funding, philanthropy and organizations like Alzheimer’s Community Care, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is certainly possible. For the first time, we have identified several proteins that increase the generation of amyloid beta peptide. Additionally, there are several small molecule compounds identified in our laboratory which are at the early stages of drug development. Some of our research findings have recently been published in prestigious journals such as FASEB Journal and Cell Death and Differentiation.”
More information on Dr. Lakshmana and his Alzheimer’s research may be found here. Also be sure to visit the Alzheimer's and Aging Research Center, which supports research of Alzheimer's disease and other aging-related diseases.