Researchers at the University of Washington, USA
have developed synthetic peptides that could target and reduce toxic protein
aggregates, which are supposed to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic
neurodegenerative disease. It is a type of dementia that causes problems with
memory, thinking and behaviour.
It is caused by the aggregation of the toxic
protein. Neurons in the human brain make a protein called amyloid beta. Such
proteins on their own, called monomers of amyloid beta, perform important tasks
However, in the brains of people with
Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid beta monomers abandoned their jobs and get joined
together. First, they form oligomers which are small clusters of up to a dozen
proteins. After that longer strands are formed and finally large deposits
called plaques are formed.
Previously scientists had believed that plaques led
to the cognitive impairments, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. However,
new studies have shown that the smaller aggregates of amyloid beta are the
toxic elements of this disease.
The latest University of Washington research has
reported that the synthetic peptides, which are designed to fold into a structure
known as an alpha sheet, can block amyloid beta aggregation at the early and
most toxic stage when oligomers form. Thus, the new research is a significant
breakthrough and may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.