Molecular mechanisms of exercise as novel therapies for neurodegeneration and Alzheimer disease?
The world population is progressively aging, and prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is forecast to increase substantially in the coming years. AD is ultimately fatal, with increasing age as greatest risk factor. Treatment options are marginally effective and preserve cognitive function only temporarily. Does the blood of those who exercise hold the key to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease? We ask this question in order to meet the increasing demand for the on-going search for drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer, the most common form of dementia. The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer is old age and as the world population is progressively aging, the prevalence of this ultimately fatal disease is forecast to nearly triple by 2050. One person is diagnosed every minute, and to date, no effective treatment options are available. Several research studies have shown that the health of the heart and blood vessels is closely linked to the health of the brain, and exercise training has been shown to be effective in Alzheimer prevention. Epidemiological studies show as much as 40-50% reduction in risk of developing AD in those with a high level of physical activity and/or high age-relative fitness compared with inactive/unfit counterparts. However, it is not known how this really works. Recently, it has been shown that blood from young mice injected into old mice has the ability to rejuvenate brain ageing, and protect from Alzheimer related damage. This research proposes the possibility that blood in general contains small molecules that if identified and shown effective can be put in a pill and used to treat patients. In this project both cell culture models of brain cells (neurons) mimicking AD as well as animal models of AD are used to understand more about the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. At these early stages in the study, we are working with the cell culture model in order to increase our knowledge to use also when designing the study in the animal model. The goal is to find whether the beneficial effects of exercise can be delivered to patients that are unable to exercise, such as a large part of the AD population. The project is a collaboration between the K.G. Jebsen Centre of Exercise in Medicine and the Kavli Institute (NTNU), and the Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology at St. Olavs Hospital.