Brain Discovery Wins Nobel Prize and May be the Solution to Alzheimer’s

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Many have seen family members worry and many have even had to suffer the fate. The older they get the more afraid they become that one day they might have Alzheimer’s disease. Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters grow up and simply forget. Such is the sorrowful experience of a family member who has ever had to suffer through watching a family member lose themselves to Alzheimer’s. But now a new discovery in the way that the brain works has, not only won the Nobel prize in medicine, but may also have key evidence that can help scientists and doctors get closer to a cure for the brain’s malfunction.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association an estimated 5.2 million people living in America will have had, or will get the disease by the end of the year 2014 and 44 million are said to have it worldwide. It is a degenerative disease that causes memory loss and other intellectual disabilities. It is a form of dementia where symptoms develop slowly and get worse throughout time. The disease affects the brain cells and currently there is no cure. Though many have tried in decades of time to find a cure, or even a way to prevent it, attempts have, thus far, been unsuccessful. But now new evidence has been revealed about the brain that may lead us to a way to deal with the dreaded disease.Alzheimer's

Three scientists were awarded the Nobel prize in medicine for their research on brain cells. John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and her husband Edvard Moser were, all three, recently the winners. The research began in 1971 when O’Keefe discovered information on brain cells that was later followed up by the Mosers in 2005. Their research would let them discover what they call the “inner GPS” of the brain. This system is supposedly how brain cells work with memory to help us navigate.

O’Keefe originally used rats and studied their hippocampus when placing them in different parts of the room. In his theory it was these types of brain cells that helped them form a map of the room so that they could navigate, no matter which part of the room he placed them in. The Mosers named these parts “grid cells,” though they studied another part of the rats’ brains called the entorhinal cortex.

This research, along with years of research from other Nobel prize winners, could help determine exactly how Alzheimer’s takes over the brain and maybe even help scientists determine a way to cure the disease. Now that they have the information on how spatial cells in the brain represent memory, John O’Keefe plans to take his research even further. He is now the director of a new brain institute in the city of London. He plans to find a way to attach Alzheimer’s disease at a molecular level and with the new high-tech equipment that he will have for the studies, along with prize money that he has been given, he may be able to do just that.

Also at the University College London at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior more than one hundred scientists will begin research next year, where O’Keefe is director there, as well. They will use molecular studies, laser technology, and more in effort to advance the research in the fight against dementia.

While the Alzheimer’s Association expects the amount of diagnosed cases to triple by the year 2050, this ground breaking research could be the key to slowing down, if not ending, the disease before that time. Though finding an actual cure may still take many years and billions in research, the research that O’Keefe and the Mosers found could be a large step towards succeeding.

By Crystal Boulware


Washington Post
Alzheimer’s Association