Something very strange has happened: A cure for Alzheimer’s may have been discovered in soil from Easter Island. Bacteria isolated from the dirt in this mysterious, isolated place has cured memory deficits in mice.

A drug called Rapamycin, which keeps the immune system from attacking transplanted organs, cured brain lesions in mice with Alzheimer’s. It is also being tested in cancer research studies.

Science Daily quotes researcher Salvatore Oddo as saying, “Because rapamycin is a US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug, a clinical trial using it as an anti-Alzheimer’s disease therapy could be started fairly quickly. While it remains to be determined whether our results obtained in mice could be translated in people, we are very excited as these findings may lead to a new therapeutic intervention to treat Alzheimer’s.”

In Alzheimer’s disease, a protein called beta amyloid, or A-beta, forms plaques in the brain that destroy signals between nerves, causing people lose their memory and eventually causing their vital functions (such as breathing) to fail. No one knew why the A-beta was there, but new researcher shows that it may be one of the brain’s normal defenses against bacteria. Brain samples from Alzheimer’s patients were 24% percent more effective in killing bacteria.

In the March 9 edition of the New York Times, Gina Kolata quotes neurologist Rudolph E. Tanzi as saying, “It means you don’t want to hit A-beta with a sledgehammer. It says what we need is the equivalent of a statin (a cholesterol medicine) for the brain so you can dial it down but not turn it off.”

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