Lesson 4 – Medical English:

Alzheimer’s breakthrough hailed as ‘turning point’

Professor Giovanna Mallucci says the hope is to arrest the process of brain cell death

The discovery of the first chemical to prevent the death of brain tissue in a neurodegenerative disease has been hailed as the “turning point” in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

More work is needed to develop a drug that could be taken by patients.

But scientists say a resulting medicine could treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other diseases.

In tests on mice, the Medical Research Council showed all brain cell death from prion disease could be prevented.

Prof Roger Morris, from King’s College London, said: “This finding, I suspect, will be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”

He told the BBC a cure for Alzheimer’s was not imminent but: “I’m very excited, it’s the first proof in any living animal that you can delay neurodegeneration.

“The world won’t change tomorrow, but this is a landmark study.”

Cells starve

The research team at the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, based at the University of Leicester, focused on the natural defence mechanisms built into brain cells.

When a virus hijacks a brain cell it leads to a build-up of viral proteins. Cells respond by shutting down nearly all protein production in order to halt the virus’s spread.

However, many neurodegenerative diseases involve the production of faulty or “misfolded” proteins. These activate the same defences, but with more severe consequences.

The misfolded proteins linger and the brain cells shut down protein production for so long that they eventually starve themselves to death.

This process, repeated in neurons throughout the brain, can destroy movement or memory or even kill, depending on the disease.

This process is thought to take place in many forms of neurodegeneration, so safely disrupting it could treat a wide range of diseases.

The researchers used a compound which prevented those defence mechanisms kicking in and in turn halted neurodegeneration.


It is rare to get cautious scientists keen to describe a study in mice as a turning point in treating Alzheimer’s.

It is early science, a lot can go wrong between a drug for mice and a drug for humans and the only published data is for prion disease, not even Alzheimer’s.

So why the excitement?

It is the first time that any form of neurodegeneration has been completely halted, so it is a significant landmark. It shows that the process being targeted has serious potential.

If this can be successfully developed, which is not guaranteed, the prize would be huge.

In Parkinson’s the alpha-synuclein protein goes wrong, in Alzheimer’s it’s amyloid and tau, in Huntington’s it’s the Huntingtin protein.

But the errant protein is irrelevant here as the researchers are targeting the way a cell deals with any misfolded protein.

It means one drug could cure many diseases and that really would be something to get excited about.

The study,published in Science Translational Medicine, showed mice with prion disease developed severe memory and movement problems. They died within 12 weeks.

However, those given the compound showed no sign of brain tissue wasting away.

Lead researcher Prof Giovanna Mallucci told the BBC news website: “They were absolutely fine, it was extraordinary.

“What’s really exciting is a compound has completely prevented neurodegeneration and that’s a first.

“This isn’t the compound you would use in people, but it means we can do it and it’s a start.”

She said the compound offered a “new pathway that may well give protective drugs” and the next step was for drug companies to develop a medicine for use in humans.

‘Very dramatic’

Prof Mallucci’s lab is also testing the compound on other forms of neurodegeneration in mice but the results have not yet been published.

Side effects are an issue. The compound also acted on the pancreas, meaning the mice developed a mild form of diabetes and lost weight.

Any human drug would need to act only on the brain. However, this gives scientists and drug companies a starting point.

David Allsop, professor of neuroscience at Lancaster University described the results as “very dramatic and highly encouraging” but cautioned that more research was needed to see how the findings would apply to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Dr Eric Karran, the director of research at the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Targetinga mechanism relevant to a number of neurodegenerative diseases could yield a single drug with wide-reaching benefits, but this compound is still at an early stage.

“It will be important for these findings to be repeated and tested in models of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.”

                  Taken with kind permission from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24462699

                               prepared by Angloland skola www.angloland.rs  office @angloland.rs



breakthrough- scientific progress, achievement, advances

to prevent – to preclude,to keep from happening, to keep from doing,

brain tissue the human cerebral cortex is a thick layer of neuraltissuethat covers most of the brain. This layer is folded in a way that increases the amount of surface that can that can fit into the volume available. The pattern of folds is similar across individuals, although there are many small variations.

neurodegenerative disease –is the umbrella term for the progressive loss of structure or function ofneurons, including death of neurons. Many neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s,Alzheimer’s, andHuntington’soccur as a result of neurodegenerative processes.

to hail – to extol, to praise , to hold in high esteem

turning point – the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.

imminent – inevitable, unavoidable

prion disease – is aninfectious agentcomposed of proteinin amisfoldedform.This is the central idea of the Prion Hypothesis, which remains debated.This would be in contrast to all other known infectious agents (virus/bacteria/fungus/parasite) which must containnucleic acids(eitherDNA,RNA, or both). The wordprion, coined in 1982 byStanley B. Prusiner, is derived from the wordsproteinandinfection.Prions are responsible for thetransmissible spongiform encephalopathiesin a variety ofmammals, includingbovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as “mad cow disease”) incattle.

a landmark study – significant, very important which introduces change in the whole scientific area of study

to starve – not to eat which gradually leads to death

defense mechanisms – coping mechanisms which help the body to survive

to hijack – to seize (an airplane or other vehicle) by threat or by force, esp. for ransom or political objectives. 2.to steal (cargo) from a truck or other vehicle after forcing it to stop:

a build up – accumulation

to halt – to stop, to hinder, to block

to respond– to react  

faulty – flawed, defective, deficient, erroneous

misfolded proteins- Failure to fold into native structure generally produces inactive proteins, but in some instances misfolded proteins have modified or toxic functionality. Several neurodegenerativeand otherdiseasesare believed to result from the accumulation ofamyloidfibrils formed bymisfoldedproteins.Manyallergiesare caused by incorrect folding of some proteins, for the immune system does not produce antibodies for certain protein structures

severe – serious , not to be disregarded or ignored

to linger – to last for a long period time,to remain feebly alive for some time before dying. to persist

eventually – after a while, after some time, at some point in future

neurons- also known as aneuroneor nerve cell) is anelectricallyexcitablecellthat processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals

to  disrupt –to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way : to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something)

a compound –a combination of two or more elements or parts.

to kick in – to start, to appear, to occur, to become operative, to take effect

in turn- in the appropriate point in the series or order; when one’s turn comes.

keen – enthusiastic , interested

to waste away –to use something up wastefully; to dissipate something, to wither , to dwindle away.

a new pathway – a new venue , a new way forward

side effects -an effect, whether therapeutic or adverse, that is secondary to the one intended; although the term is predominantly employed to describeadverse effects, it can also apply to beneficial, but unintended, consequences of the use of adrug

a mild form – not a severe form , not a serious form

encouraging –promising , auspicious , supportive

to caution – to warn , to advise or urge to take heed,   take care or  to be attentive

to target – to aim, to set a target, to prime

to yield – to produce or provide (something, such as a plant or crop). : to produce (something) as a result of time, effort, or work

wide reaching benefits – far reaching effects, favorable, conducive, helpful, contributory

                       taken with kind permission from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24462699

                                            prepared by Angloland skola www.angloland.rs 
                                                                                        office @angloland.rs