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Health Beat: Protection from Alzheimer's disease?

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 27 2014 02:20:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 27 2014 05:13:03 PM CDT

A new study may help scientists unlock a medical mystery. Researchers have found that rheumatoid arthritis patients seem to have protection from developing Alzheimer's disease. The scientific link between the two may help researchers develop a new treatment for Alzheimer's.

DENVER -

Looking at pictures is just one way Bob and Donna Otten cope, after Bob was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago.

"It'll help him recall what we saw because he won't remember the trip all that well," Donna explained, while looking through old photos.

A new study from the University of Colorado may change that.

"A protein that is released during rheumatoid arthritis into the blood seems to get into the brain and prevent Alzheimer's disease from getting hold," said Dr. Huntington Potter, professor of neurology at the University of Colorado.

The protective protein known as GMCSF is also an ingredient in the FDA-approved drug leukine, which is used to treat leukemia patients.

"This drug is very special because it seems to not only get rid of amyloid deposits in the brain but encourage the growth of new neurons," Potter said.

The drug was studied in mice and found to be effective at halting Alzheimer’s disease. Human trials are next.

For those with a family history of Alzheimer's, like the Ottens, the discovery could be life-saving for future generations.

University of Colorado researchers will continue to study the new drug as a treatment for Alzheimer's but said definitive results are still a few years away.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor