New EU project uses nanoparticles to tackle Alzheimer’s disease

A new EU-funded project is exploring the use of nanoparticles in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The five-year NAD (‘Nanoparticles for the therapy and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease’) initiative has a budget of €14.6 million and is financed by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). It brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines working in 19 organisations in 13 countries.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia: of Europe’s five million dementia sufferers, over half have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. These figures are likely to rise dramatically as the population ages. The condition is caused by the accumulation in the brain of plaques made up of beta-amyloid peptide molecules. These plaques cause the nerve cells to degenerate.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include confusion, memory loss and mood swings. As yet, there is no cure for the condition, although some drugs exist that are able to slow the progression of the disease in some patients.

‘Somewhere in the world there is a new case of dementia diagnosed every seven seconds. The majority of these people are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,’ said Professor David Allsop of Lancaster University in the UK, one of the project partners. ‘But despite great progress in the scientific field, which has made interpretation of the molecular bases of the disease possible, so far there has been little progress in improved diagnosis and therapy.’

The NAD project will design a range of nanoparticles that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to get to the main site of the disease. Attached to these nanoparticles will be molecules that are able to recognise and destroy the amyloid plaques. Initial studies will be carried out on transgenic mice; if these prove successful, tests will be carried out on human subjects.

According to the project partners, nanoparticles offer a number of advantages in the fields of diagnosis and therapy. These include their low toxicity, biodegradability, stability and ease of preparation.

‘If the expectations of the research are realised, the results can be expected to have an enormous impact on the early diagnosis and cure of this highly depressing disease,’ commented Professor Allsop.

Diseases associated with ageing, such as Alzheimer’s, have been given a high priority both in FP7 and in the work programme of the French Presidency of the EU, which runs until the end of the year. At the next meeting of the EU’s research ministers at the end of September, the French will invite Member States to sign up to a joint commitment to tackle neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to this, a conference on Alzheimer’s disease will be held in Paris at the end of October.

For more information, please visit:

University of Milano-Bicocca:

University of Lancaster:



~ by vascoteixeira on September 17, 2008.

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