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Natural treatment for Alzheimer's discovered

20th February 2006

Canadian scientists have discovered a natural defence mechanism to Alzheimer's which questions conventional treatments of the disease.

A team from the Université Laval and Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec's research centre found that anti-inflammatory drugs may hinder, rather than help the central nervous system's immune cells, known as microglia.

Where microglia cells fail to break up the amyloid protein accumulations which cause Alzheimer's in the brain, they are much more successful when fighting the plaque growths in bone marrow.

By taking bone marrow stem cells from the patient, it should be possible through genetic engineering to create microglia that will break up the plaques which cause Alzheimer's.

Dr Serge Rivest, who headed the research project, said: "While this cellular therapy will not prevent Alzheimer's, by curbing plaque development, we believe that it will help patients prolong their autonomy and cognitive capacity.

"We believe that this is a new and powerful weapon in the fight to conquer Alzheimer's."

Conventional treatments of anti-inflammatory drugs attempt to suppress the microglia rather than encourage them.

The disease affects around 400,000 people in the UK.