Scientists discover possible new treatment for Alzheimer's

January 05, 2013

By DAISUKE SUDO/ Staff Writer

OSAKA--Japanese scientists have discovered a new way to destroy the chemical thought to cause Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is believed to result when a protein found in nerve cells degenerates into amyloid beta 42, a highly toxic substance, which then accumulates in the brain. This takes place under the influence of gamma-secretase, an enzyme that acts like a pair of scissors on the protein.

A team of scientists led by Masayasu Okochi, a lecturer in clinical psychiatry at Osaka University, found that further in-vitro reactions involving the same enzyme could result in A-beta 42 being broken down into a less toxic form, A-beta 38.

Adding a form of catalyst improved the enzyme's activity, roughly doubling its efficiency in human cells, the researchers said.

So far, research into Alzheimer's therapies has focused on blocking the enzyme in order to suppress A-beta 42 generation. But this new work suggests it could be worth helping the enzyme to do its work.

"An enzyme-activating drug could have better therapeutic effects," Okochi said.

The findings have been welcomed by other experts in the field.

"The latest discovery will provide logical grounds for developing new types of drugs," said Toshiharu Suzuki, a professor of neuroscience at Hokkaido University's School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacy. "It is also a key milestone in the efforts to understand how enzyme activity weakens."

The research results were published Jan. 3 in Cell Reports, a U.S. scientific journal.

By DAISUKE SUDO/ Staff Writer
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