A Sniff to Cure Alzheimer’s?
As a sinus surgeon and ENT, I spend a lot of time explaining the link between ear, nose and throat structures and more global health concerns. Obstructed airways can trigger a wide array of health issues including heart disease and depression, and undiagnosed infections can quickly spread to the brain and even prove fatal.
Yet these same structures also give physicians ready access to tissues that may benefit from the direct delivery of medications. Consider an intriguing new medical product: a nasal spray whose inventors claim it might someday cure Alzheimer’s.
How does it work? The researchers in question – William Klein and Vinayak Dravid at Northwestern University – engineered an airborne antibody designed to bond to a type of protein closely associated with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s:
Globs of beta-amyloid protein called plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. But these days most neuroscientists agree that a tiny particle form of the same protein, called an oligomer, is the primary toxin in the illness. Eventually these smaller structures glom together to form plaques, but by then they have already damaged brain cells. The antibody created at Northwestern binds to the toxic oligomers and could one day deliver therapies to the brain or help clinicians evaluate how a patient is responding to a new medication.
The process remains in the early stages, but the medical thinking is sound. And who knows – perhaps the day will come when any number of brain maladies will be treatable in aerosol form. Then again, not all of them.