Scottish scientists find early Alzheimer's could be 'stopped' using common hormone

Elderly woman's hands holding tablets
University of Dundee researchers say a hormone could 'slow or stop' early stage Alzheimer's -Credit:PA

Scientists have made a groundbreaking announcement that a hormone found naturally in the body could halt early stage Alzheimer's disease.

The team at the University of Dundee has found that leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, can significantly impact brain health. Remarkably, a small segment of leptin has been shown to thwart the progression of Alzheimer's at its most initial phase.

Their research indicates that leptin can counteract the harmful effects of two brain proteins, amyloid and tau, which accumulate and cause memory deterioration leading to Alzheimer's.

Professor Jenni Harvey, who is leading the research, remarked: "We're working at the level of synapses which are the communication points in the brain because synapses are affected early in the disease process, when Alzheimer's is still reversible."

She further explained the potential of leptin, saying: "Our research shows that leptin could significantly slow, or even stop, the disease developing."

Harvey highlighted the hormone's protective role, noting: "We have found that applying leptin can block the ability of amyloid and tau to interfere with synapses and memory loss, and it can prevent the unwanted effects of these cellular changes."

In a significant stride forward, the researchers have identified six amino acid fragments from the 167 that makeup leptin, which can inhibit the negative impacts of amyloid and tau on the brain, potentially slowing or halting Alzheimer's progression.

This discovery has paved the way for the scientists to craft a drug template based on these smaller leptin fragments.

Prof Harvey has indicated that it might take several years before any new drugs based on leptin are ready for patients.

She explained: "Developing drugs is not a quick process, most drugs take around 10 years. Even when one has been developed there are a number of safety checks it has to go through before being issued to patients."

With dementia currently affecting 900,000 individuals in the UK and projections estimating a rise to 1.6 million by 2050, the development of such drugs is keenly anticipated.

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