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  E. The Potential of Nerve Growth Factor to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Narrator: This is Science Today. An experimental gene therapy trial in which several Alzheimer’s patients had nerve growth factor directly inserted into their brains is promising. Dr. Mark Tuszynksi, who led the University of California, San Diego trial, used PET scans to track metabolic activity in the brain after treatment.

Tuszynksi: Normally over the course of Alzheimer’s disease, as the disease progresses, PET scan activity falls over time. And in our patients, we saw the opposite sort of effect. After undergoing the nerve growth factor gene therapy in fact, PET scan activity increased in the brain, showing that the cortex of the brain was more metabolically active.

Narrator: The researchers also discovered a robust growth response to the delivered nerve growth factor.

Tuszynski: This was very important – it established unequivocally that growth factors delivered to the degenerating Alzheimer’s disease brain can illicit a growth response and that degenerating cells in the brain can recognize and respond to growth factors.

Narrator: For Science Today, I’m Larissa Branin.