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Scientists are developing gene therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Doctors in California implanted cells in which genetic changes were made, in the brain of a 60-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease in its early stages. This, in an attempt to slow down her mental deterioration.

According to Mark Toszynski, a professor of brain research at the University of California, San Diego, who also serves as the head of the Retirement Health Services Administration, the experimental analysis is an initial test for gene therapy in degenerative brain diseases. According to him, the researchers intend to perform the surgery on seven additional patients and examine its results.

The cells taken from the woman's skin were injected with a gene that produces a substance that causes nerve growth - a natural substitute that promotes the growth and survival of brain cells. The revolutionary treatment is not expected to cure Alzheimer's patients, although animal studies indicate that it may help preserve the patients' ability to learn and remember. "We hope that we will be able to maintain a high level of functioning in people for a longer period of time," said Toszinski, the neuroscientist leading the project.

Some experts have expressed concern that if medical complications arise it will be difficult to treat them, because there is no simple way to remove genetically modified cells, or to stop their action once they are implanted in the brain.

Professor Vasilis Koliatsos, from the Department of Pathology and Neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, explains that growth factors are powerful compounds that are not selective for a specific brain system. According to him, their action must be monitored.

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