A new strategy required in the search for Alzheimer's drugs?

In the search for medication against Alzheimer's disease, scientists have focused – among other factors – on drugs that can break down Amyloid beta (A-beta). After all, it is the accumulation of A-beta that causes the known plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Starting point for the formation of A-beta is APP. Alessia Soldano and Bassem Hassan (VIB/KU Leuven) were the first to unravel the function of APPL – the fruit-fly version of APP – in the brain of healthy fruit flies.

Alessia Soldano (VIB/KU Leuven): "We have discovered that APPL ensures that form a good network. We now have to ask ourselves the question whether this function of APPL is also relevant to Alzheimer's disease."

Bassem Hassan (VIB/KU Leuven): "Since we show that APP and APPL show similar activities in , we suspect that APP in the human functions in the same manner as APPL in the brain of fruit flies. Hopefully we can use this to ask and eventually answer the question whether A-beta or APP itself is the better target for ."

Plaques in the brain: Cause or effect

The brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease is very recognizable due to the so-called plaques. A is an accumulation of proteins that are primarily made up of Amyloid beta (A-beta), a small structure that splits off from the (APP). We have been dreaming for a long time of a drug that can break down A-beta, but we should be asking ourselves whether this is really the best strategy. After all, it is not yet clear whether the plaques are a cause or effect of Alzheimer's disease.  In order to answer this question, it is important to determine the function of APP in healthy brains.

Optimum communication between brain cells

Alessia Soldano and Bassem Hassan study APPL, the fruit-fly version of APP. APPL is found throughout the fruit-fly brain, but primarily in the so-called alpha-beta neurons that are vital to learning processes and memory. The alpha-beta neurons must form functional axons for optimum functioning. Axons are tendrils projecting from the neuron, which are essential for communication between neurons. The VIB scientists had previously shown that APPL is important for memory in flies. Now, they have discovered that – in the developing brain of a fruit fly – APPL ensures that the axons are long enough and grow in the correct direction. APPL is therefore essential in the formation of a good network of . The question is whether or not it is a good strategy to target a protein with such an important function in the brain in order to combat Alzheimer's disease.

More information: Soldano, et al. An Axonal Growth Pathway Requires an Alzheimer's Protein, PLOS Biology 2013.
www.plosbiology.org/article/in… journal.pbio.1001559

Related Stories

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

date 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 ...

New perspective needed for role of major Alzheimer's gene

date May 07, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists' picture of how a gene strongly linked to Alzheimer's disease harms the brain may have to be revised, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

Clue to cause of Alzheimer's dementia found in brain samples

date Oct 22, 2012

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a key difference in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and those who are cognitively normal but still have brain plaques that characterize ...

Suppressing protein may stem Alzheimer's disease process

date Apr 25, 2013

Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have discovered a potential strategy for developing treatments to stem the disease process in Alzheimer's disease. It's based on unclogging removal of ...

Recommended for you

Helpful app for people with dementia

date Apr 21, 2015

Bangor University is providing expertise to support the development and effectiveness of 'Book of You', an 'app' being welcomed as having the potential to revolutionise reminiscence therapy for people with dementia.

New approaches for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's

date Apr 17, 2015

Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, may be one of Alzheimer's earliest signs. The subtle changes of MCI include problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment and a subjective sense that mental function ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.