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

December 3, 2012, University of British Columbia

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.

Explore further: Researchers identify new enzyme to fight Alzheimer's disease

Related Stories

Researchers identify new enzyme to fight Alzheimer's disease

September 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

August 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 ...

Poor recycling of BACE1 enzyme could promote Alzheimer's disease

November 21, 2011
Sluggish recycling of a protein-slicing enzyme could promote Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published online on November 21 in The Journal of Cell Biology.

Case of mistaken identity: Study questions role of A-beta molecules in Alzheimer's disease pathology

June 28, 2011
Increasingly, researchers are suggesting that amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles may be relatively late manifestations in the course of Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology. Identifying earlier events in the development ...

Recommended for you

Alzheimer's disease: Neuronal loss very limited

January 17, 2018
Frequently encountered in the elderly, Alzheimer's is considered a neurodegenerative disease, which means that it is accompanied by a significant, progressive loss of neurons and their nerve endings, or synapses. A joint ...

Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

January 12, 2018
A new study suggests an association between elevated amyloid beta levels and the worsening of anxiety symptoms. The findings support the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric symptoms could represent the early manifestation of ...

One of the most promising drugs for Alzheimer's disease fails in clinical trials

January 11, 2018
To the roughly 400 clinical trials that have tested some experimental treatment for Alzheimer's disease and come up short, we can now add three more.

Different disease types associated with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains found in Alzheimer's patients

January 9, 2018
An international team of researchers has found different disease type associations with distinct amyloid-beta prion strains in the brains of dead Alzheimer's patients. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National ...

Advances in brain imaging settle debate over spread of key protein in Alzheimer's

January 5, 2018
Recent advances in brain imaging have enabled scientists to show for the first time that a key protein which causes nerve cell death spreads throughout the brain in Alzheimer's disease - and hence that blocking its spread ...

Molecular mechanism behind HIV-associated dementia revealed

January 5, 2018
For the first time, scientists have identified and inhibited a molecular process that can lead to neurodegeneration in patients with HIV, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in Nature Communications.

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.