This is the first step toward a medicine that could actually stop the progress of Alzheimer's. Existing medicines can at best limit the loss of memory during the first phases of the disease.
The authoritative journal Science is publishing the results of this research. A first step, however, is still a long way from an approved drug − even if everything goes well, it will be another 15 years before the medicine becomes available.
Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent form of dementia in the Western world. The disease's harmful effects on memory and mental functioning make it one of the most terrifying syndromes. It is estimated that, by 2010, our country will have more than 150,000 Alzheimer's patients. At present, this disease is still incurable. Today's medicines for Alzheimer's patients sustain the memory functions for a short time, but they do not stop the brain's cells from dying off.
Plaques and the γ-secretase complex
A typical characteristic of the brains of Alzheimer's patients is the presence of amyloid plaques, which are abnormal accumulations of the β-amyloid protein between the neurons. The sticky β-amyloid arises when the amyloid precursor protein is cut into pieces incorrectly.
The γ-secretase complex − which cuts proteins at a specific place − plays a major role in the creation of these plaques. However, this complex (group of proteins that work together) is also involved in the regulation of a series of other essential proteins such as Notch, which plays a crucial role in the development of an embryo. This is why many of the medicines in development that act on the whole γ-secretase complex run up against toxic side effects.
Under the direction of Bart De Strooper, and in collaboration with researchers in other countries, Lutgarde Serneels, Jérôme Van Biervliet and their colleagues have been studying the γ-secretase complex in a variety of tissues. They have now been able to demonstrate that the complex assumes a different shape and function according to the tissue in which the secretase is active. For their research on Alzheimer's disease, the researchers have used mouse models. They have found that deactivating the variant, Aph1B γ-secretase, in Alzheimer mice leads to reduced formation of the plaques, without any harmful side effects.
Importance of the research
With this discovery, the researchers are once again opening a way toward the development of medicines that deactivate γ-secretase. By concentrating on a variant of the complex that cuts proteins specifically in the brain − the Aph1B γ-secretase complex − the formation of the plaques can be prevented, while the other functions of γ-secretase are not affected. This raises hopes for a drug that, for the first time, will succeed in stopping Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, because the toxic side effects have been cut away, it could also be administered preventively to persons with a risk of Alzheimer's. However, such a medicine will still require at least a good 15 years of further research and development.
Given the fact that γ-secretase is also involved in the onset of certain cancers, research on the various variants of γ-secretase can lead to new insights into these diseases as well.
Evy Vierstraete | EurekAlert!
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences