Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


How a small worm may help the fight against Alzheimer’s


N-acetylglucosamine prevents protein aggregation

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne have found that a naturally occurring molecule has the ability to enhance defense mechanisms against neurodegenerative diseases. Feeding this particular metabolite to the small round worm Caenorhabditis elegans, helps clear toxic protein aggregates in the body and extends life span.

Image of a C. elegans roundworm. The blue fluorescence highlights the tissue producing most N-acetylglucosamine.

© MPI for the Biology of Ageing

During ageing, proteins in the human body tend to aggregate. At a certain point, protein aggregation becomes toxic, overloads the cell, and thus prevents it from maintaining normal function. Damage can occur, particularly in neurons, and may result in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease.

By studying model organisms like Caenorhabditis elegans, scientists have begun to uncover the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration, and thus define possible targets for both therapy and prevention of those diseases.

“Although we cannot measure dementia in worms“, explains Martin Denzel of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, “we can observe proteins that we also know from human diseases like Alzheimer’s to be toxic by measuring effects on neuromuscular function. This gives us insight into how Alzheimer actually progresses on the molecular level“.

Now, the scientists Martin Denzel, Nadia Storm, and Max Planck Director Adam Antebi have discovered that a substance called N-acetylglucosamine apparently stimulates the body’s own defense mechanism against such toxicity.

This metabolite occurs naturally in the organism. If it is additionally fed to the worm, “we can achieve very dramatic benefits“, says Denzel. „It is a broad-spectrum effect that alleviates protein toxicity in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease models in the worm, and it even extends their life span.“

This molecule apparently plays a crucial role in quality control mechanisms that keep the body healthy. It helps the organism to clear toxic levels of protein aggregation, both preventing aggregates from forming and clearing already existing ones.

As a result, onset of paralysis is delayed in models of neurodegeneration - How exactly the molecule achieves this effect is yet to be uncovered. “And we still don’t know whether it also works in higher animals and humans“, says Antebi. “But as we also have these metabolites in our cells, this gives good reason to suspect that similar mechanisms might work in humans.”


Dr. Adam Antebi

Sabine Dzuck

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Köln

Phone: +49 221 37970-304
Fax: +49 221 3797088-304


Original publication

Martin S. Denzel*, Nadia J. Storm*, Aljona Gutschmidt, Ruth Baddi, Yvonne Hinze, Ernst Jarosch, Thomas Sommer, Thorsten Hoppe, and Adam Antebi
Hexosamine pathway metabolites enhance protein quality control and prolong life Cell
Cell, 13 March 2014

Dr. Adam Antebi | Max-Planck-Institute
Further information:

Further reports about: Alzheimer’s Biology Cell diseases enhance humans metabolite neurodegenerative proteins small toxic

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>