Three potential Alzheimer’s breakthroughs

Almost everyday we’re reading news about significant work that is being done to defeat the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. No one path has emerged, but there is definite progress along several fronts from teams working around the world. Here are three of the latest discoveries that show real promise:

Memory capabilities improve with insulin spray

At Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, researchers have been successful improving short-term memory processing and retention by using a nasal spray originally developed to treat diabetes. They are working now with insulin detemir, which has a longer lasting effect than previous versions. And, there are no major side-effects.

Hibernating animals may hold the key

A protein — RBM3 — which rebuilds memory synapses in hibernating animals after waking may help restore normal brain activity. Researchers at the University of Leicester theorize that a drug could be developed that would mimic the protein’s effects and “cool” the brain into a healthier state.

Enabling cleaning cells to do their job

At Stanford University, scientists have discovered that cells die in the brain because other cells called microglia that clean up harmful bacteria, viruses and other damaging deposits have stopped working. This time, a protein — EP2 — is the villain, not the hero. EP2 stops the microglia, which make up 10-15 percent of all brain cells, from functioning. Researchers have developed a drug that blocks EP2 and have tested it on Alzheimer’s stricken mice. Memory loss was reversed.