Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have worked on out-of-the-box ideas that can help prevent or reduce short-term memory losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The research team was headed by Prof. HarshalNemade, Professor, Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, IIT Guwahati, and Vibin Ramakrishnan, Professor, Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering, IIT Guwahati, along with Prof. HarshalNemade, Professor, Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, IIT Guwahati. They studied the neurochemical principles of Alzheimer’s and explored new ways to prevent the accumulation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain that are associated with short-term memory loss.
The IIT Guwahati team reports interesting methods such as the application of low-voltage electric field, and the use of ‘trojan peptides’ to arrest aggregation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain. The scientists are assisted by research scholars Jahnu Saikia and Dr. Gaurav Pandey in their work. They have the results of their studies published in reputed journals such as ACS Chemical Neuroscience, RSC Advances of the Royal Society of Chemistry, BBA, and Neuropeptides.
The development of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease assumes importance India as it has the third-highest number of Alzheimer’s patients in the world, after China and the US, with more than four million people falling prey to memory loss associated with it. While the available treatments for Alzheimer’s only alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease, no disruptive therapeutic approach is found yet that can treat the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s.
“Approximately hundred potential drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have failed between 1998 and 2011, which shows the gravity of the problem,” noted Dr. Ramakrishnan, a participant of worldwide efforts at finding cures for the disease.
A defining hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain. Dr. Ramakrishnan and Dr. Nemade seek methods to reduce the accumulation of these peptides, in order to arrest the progression of Alzheimer’s.
In the year 2019, scientists of IIT Guwahati found that the application of a low-voltage, safe electrical field can reduce the formation and accumulation of toxic neurodegenerative molecules that cause short-term memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. They found that the external electric/magnetic field modulates the structure of these peptide molecules, thereby preventing aggregation.
Informing about the discovery, Dr. Ramakrishnan mentioned, “Upon exposure to an electric field, we could retard the degeneration of nerve cells to an extent of 17–35%. Objectively, this would translate to about 10 years delay in the onset of the disease,”
Taking it forward, the scientists explored the possibility of using ‘Trojan peptides’ to arrest the aggregation of these neurotoxic molecules. The idea of using ‘Trojan peptide’ comes from mythological “Trojan Horse” used as subterfuge by the Greeks in the battle of Troy. The researchers have designed Trojan peptides by adopting a similar approach of ‘deceit’ to obstruct the aggregation of the amyloid peptide, arrest the formation of toxic fibrillar assemblies, and lower the poisoning of nerve cells that leads to memory loss.
“Our research has provided a different path that may extend the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it would take testing in animal models and clinical trials before bringing in such new therapeutic approaches into human treatment” commented, project coordinators, Dr. Ramakrishnan and Dr. Nemade