Link between proteins points to possibilities for future Alzheimer’s treatments

24/04/2015

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Researchers have identified how proteins that play a key role in Alzheimer’s disease are linked in a pathway that controls its progression, and that drugs targeting this pathway may be a potential new way of treating the disease.

 

This is something we can only do by looking at real human neurons.
  -  Rick Livesey

Researchers have found that the proteins that control the progression of Alzheimer’s are linked in a pathway, and that drugs targeting this pathway may be a way of treating the disease, which affects 40 million people worldwide. The findings have just been published in the journal Cell Reports.

The scientists, from the University of Cambridge, found that as a protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP) is broken down into toxic protein fragments called amyloid-beta, it affects changes in the way that another key protein, tau, behaves. Though links between these proteins have been described in earlier work, this research has identified a new association between them, and found that manipulating the rate at which APP is broken down is directly connected to levels of tau.

While it is not known exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, it is known that amyloid-beta and tau build up in the brain, forming ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ which disrupt the connections between neurons, eventually killing them. There are no treatments to stop or reverse the progression of the disease, although researchers are starting to understand the mechanisms which cause it to progress.

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Image: 3D image of human neurons in a dish
Credit: Steve Moore, Livesey group, Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge
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