Alzheimer's: French scientists focus on key target

January 24, 2012

French scientists said on Tuesday that lack of a key brain protein was linked to Alzheimer's, a finding that threw up a tempting target for drugs to fight the disease.

"What we've found is a weapon for controlling and modifying tau," said Etienne-Emile Baulieu of France's National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), referring to a culprit involved in Alzheimer's.

Building on earlier work, researchers delved into a Paris "brain bank," of organs donated for medical science, to compare levels of a protein called FKBP52 among brains of people who had died of dementia and those who had died of other causes.

Tiny slivers of brain were extracted and their chemicals analysed.

In the , "levels of FKBP52 were 75 percent lower among people who had died of Alzheimer's and other tau diseases, a dramatic fall," Baulieu told a press conference.

Baulieu said FKBP52 was the best target that had surfaced so far in the fight against Alzheimer's, a disease that is as cruel as it is baffling.

A rogue protein that later became named tau was first spotted in 1912 by Alois Alzheimer, the German neuropathologist who gave his name to this relentless of the brain.

When normal tau undergoes a process called hyperphosphorylation, it starts to assemble in microscopic tangles inside , killing them.

But another telltale sign of Alzheimer's is the accumulation of so-called amyloid plaques outside neurons, and their connection with tau, if any, remains unclear.

Discovered in 1992, FKBP52 is a protein that is found abundantly in the , where it has a workhorse role in folding and unfolding other proteins.

But it has also been revealed to bind to tau, which gives rise to the theory that lack of the helps tau to clump together.

Baulieu sounded a word of caution, saying the molecular cascade of events that cause was still not fully clear.

But levels of FKBP52 could be used as a marker of susceptibility to Alzheimer's, and boosting them could provide a means of stalling progression of the disease.

"I think that in three or four years, we will have results that are sufficiently broad and robust to be able to use candidate drugs that we will have found, or that pharmaceutical companies can use and modify," he said.

"It may go a lot faster than people say."

In 2010, International, the umbrella body of national associations for the disease, estimated that the number of Alzheimer's sufferers will mushroom from 35.6 million people worldwide to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.

The research appears in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Explore further: Alzheimer's vaccine cures memory of mice

Related Stories

Alzheimer's vaccine cures memory of mice

December 9, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A vaccine that slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia has been developed by researchers at the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI).

Study reveals link between high cholesterol and Alzheimer's disease

September 12, 2011
People with high cholesterol may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the September 13, 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Alzheimer's protein detected in brain fluid of healthy mice

September 21, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- One of the most promising markers of Alzheimer’s disease, previously thought only to be inside nerve cells, now appears to be normally released from nerve cells throughout life, according to researchers ...

Recommended for you

Team finds training exercise that boosts brain power

October 17, 2017
One of the two brain-training methods most scientists use in research is significantly better in improving memory and attention, Johns Hopkins University researchers found. It also results in more significant changes in brain ...

Worms learn to smell danger

October 17, 2017
Worms can learn. And the ways they learn and respond to danger could lead scientists to new treatments for people with neurodegenerative diseases.

'Busybody' protein may get on your nerves, but that's a good thing

October 17, 2017
Sensory neurons regulate how we recognize pain, touch, and the movement and position of our own bodies, but the field of neuroscience is just beginning to unravel this circuitry. Now, new research from the Salk Institute ...

Mechanism explains how seizures may lead to memory loss

October 16, 2017
Although it's been clear that seizures are linked to memory loss and other cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer's disease, how this happens has been puzzling. In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, ...

Study shows people find well-being more so from special places than from mementoes

October 16, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at the University of Surrey has found that people experience a feeling of well-being when thinking about or visiting a place that holds special meaning to them. They also found that ...

A dietary supplement dampens the brain hyperexcitability seen in seizures or epilepsy

October 14, 2017
Seizure disorders—including epilepsy—are associated with pathological hyperexcitability in brain neurons. Unfortunately, there are limited available treatments that can prevent this hyperexcitability. However, University ...

0 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.