Alzheimer's Disease, an important discovery made at the IRB
on Monday, May 2, 2011
The group of Prof. Maurizio Molinari from the IRB has published an important discovery that could help to develop new therapeutic approaches to counteract the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The study, which lasted 7 years and is published in the journal PlosOne, was carried out in collaboration with the group of Prof. Patrick Aebischer from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology from Lausanne (EPFL) and Dr. Paolo Paganetti (Novartis Pharma AG, Basel).
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects approximately 10% of the population over 65 years of age, causing progressive loss of cognitive functions related to memory, orientation and verbal skills. One of the main causes of illness and death of brain cells is an accumulation of plaques of beta-amyloid. The collaboration between EPFL and IRB led to the creation of a miniature implant for administration of small molecules that block the formation of these toxic plaques.
Thanks to financial supports from the Fondazione per lo Studio delle Malattie Neurodegenerative and Onelife Advisors SA, the IRB team headed by Prof. Molinari and composed of Carmela Galli Molinari and Siro Bianchi was able to generate cells that produce mini-antibodies specifically recognizing and destroying the plaques of beta-amyloid. These mini-antibodies are 8 times smaller compared to the monoclonal antibodies currently used in clinical trials. Their extremely small size will facilitate their arrival and spread in brain tissue, making them potentially more effective than conventional antibodies.
In cell culture experiments performed at the IRB, the mini-antibodies have shown an excellent ability to prevent the accumulation of plaques of beta-amyloid. The collaboration with the EPFL permitted to validate these important results in animal model. The group headed by Prof. Aebischer from the EPFL uses a mouse model which develop the disease just like Alzheimer's patients i.e., is subject to an accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain and gradually loses cognitive abilities during aging. The cells that produce the mini-antibodies generated at the IRB have been introduced through a miniature implant, which allowed researchers from Lausanne to deliver the mini-antibodies in mice. Studies have shown that the mini-antibodies protect mice from the accumulation of toxic plaques in the brain and the consequent loss of cognitive abilities.
These studies open a new way for possible future developments of miniature implants for the delivering of antibodies or mini-antibodies in order to counteract the progressive deterioration of patients with such type of diseases.