‘Molecular chaperone’ may prevent build-up of Alzheimer’s protein

Posted on 16th February 2015

Scientists in Cambridge have found that a particular molecule may prevent the build-up of a hallmark Alzheimer’s protein. The study is published on Monday 16 February in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

The study focused on a particular ‘molecular chaperone’ called Brichos. Molecular chaperones play an important part in helping proteins form their correct shapes to allow them to function properly. In Alzheimer’s disease, a protein called amyloid becomes misshapen: the protein first forms small bundles called oligomers, which in turn build into sticky clumps around nerve cells. It’s thought that this build-up of amyloid is the first trigger in a chain of events that leads to the death of nerve cells.

The researchers, led by a team at the University of Cambridge, used cells in a dish and mice to study how Brichos interacted with amyloid. They found that when they added Brichos to cells, the molecule bound to amyloid and fewer oligomers were produced. The researchers suggest that treatments designed to mimic this effect could help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“This detailed study has revealed a potential way to prevent the build-up of amyloid, and highlights a possible new avenue for research into new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are working hard to identify the molecular process that are most toxic to nerve cells in Alzheimer’s and this technically challenging study has revealed clues to how to block one important chain of events in the disease. Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, and further research will be needed to understand whether this approach could help stop its catastrophic effects in people.

“The more we know about the different molecular mechanisms driving Alzheimer’s, the better equipped we will be to fight the disease. Investment in research is critical if laboratory findings like these are to translate into benefits for patients, and Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance is well-placed to help realise this ambition.”

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