Updated: Wednesday, 20 Oct 2010, 6:04 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 19 Oct 2010, 5:13 PM EDT
New Haven, Conn. (WTNH) - Every 70 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in this country. But a new Yale University study shows promise in reversing the effects of Alzheimer's disease .
The exciting news comes 20 years after the study's author, Paul Lombroso, first discovered the protein called striatal-enriched tyrosine phosphatase, or STEP.
Lombroso is a professor at the Yale Child Study Center and says the brain needs glutenate receptors to learn and to make memories. His new research shows that too much of the STEP protein is bad for the memory process.
The elevation of STEP is leading to the removal of glutenate receptors and therefore you don't have them and you don't form long-term memories," Dr. Lombroso explained.
Researchers found that when they reduced the STEP protein in lab mice with Alzheimer's, they were able to reduce the effects of Alzheimer's. Lombroso hopes the research will lead to the development of a drug to treat Alzheimer's in humans.
"That means discovering a drug which inhibits STEP's activity," Lombroso said.
More than five million people in this country have Alzheimer's and that number is expected to triple in the coming years.
"We're hoping we can intervene early on and help reverse the cognitive deficits at an early state," Lombroso said.
Researchers are also looking at elevated levels of the STEP protein in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in the hopes it could someday help folks with those brain diseases as well.
For more on Alzheimer's disease, please visit www.alz.org/ct/