Alzheimer's researcher reveals a protein's dual destructiveness—and therapeutic potential

A scientist at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health has identified the molecule that controls a scissor-like protein responsible for the production of plaques – the telltale sign of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

The molecule, known as GSK3-beta, activates a gene that creates a protein, called BACE1. When BACE1 cuts another protein, called APP, the resulting fragment – known as amyloid beta – forms that clump together into plaques in the brain, eventually killing .

Using an , Dr. Weihong Song, Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer's Disease and professor of psychiatry, found that disabling GSK3-beta's effect in mice resulted in less BACE1 and far fewer deposits of amyloid in their brains. Song's research, published online today in the , also found that such mice performed better than untreated mice on memory tests.

Previous research had shown that GSK3-beta spurred the growth of twisted fibers inside neurons, known as tangles – another hallmark of AD. Song says his discovery of the protein's dual destructiveness makes it a promising target for drug research.

GSK3-beta, however, is a versatile enzyme that controls many vital . The drug used to inhibit GSK3-beta in the mice is too indiscriminate, and could cause several serious side effects, including cancer.

"If we can find a way to stop GSK3-beta's specific reaction with BACE1, and still leave it intact to perform other crucial tasks, we have a much better chance of treating AD and preventing its progression," says Song, a member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI), and Director of the Townsend Family Laboratories at UBC.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers identify new enzyme to fight Alzheimer's disease

Sep 17, 2012

An enzyme that could represent a powerful new tool for combating Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida. The enzyme—known as BACE2—destroys beta-amyloid, a toxic protein fragment ...

Road block as a new strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer's

Aug 22, 2011

Blocking a transport pathway through the brain cells offers new prospects to prevent the development of Alzheimer's. Wim Annaert and colleagues of VIB and K.U. Leuven discovered that two main agents involved in the inception ...

Recommended for you

Quality of life and Alzheimer's assessed

Aug 19, 2014

A decline in cognitive functions does not necessarily mean lower health-related quality of life for people diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.

DNA methylation involved in Alzheimer's disease

Aug 17, 2014

A new study led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Rush University Medical Center, reveals how early changes in brain DNA methylation are involved in Alzheimer's disease. DNA methylation ...

User comments