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Discovery may lead to new Alzheimer's treatments

Discovery may lead to new Alzheimer's treatments
3rd June 2014

There is hope in the medical world that a new scientific discovery could potentially lead to new treatments for degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease.

Researchers at King's College London have published a paper in the journal Nature Communications detailing their new discovery, which was made possible due to funding from various Alzheimer's charities.

The team identified a so-called molecular scaffold, which is vital in enabling key parts of cells to interact with each other. However, it comes apart when a patient develops a health condition such as dementia or motor neurone disease.

Therefore, there are hopes that this could be a new target for treatment, potentially also leading to the discovery of new drugs.

During the investigation, the doctors observed that a protein known as VAPB binds to another entitled PTPIP51 to create a scaffold-like structure, enabling cells to function properly.

However, cells controlled in this way are often disrupted if a patients develops a neurodegenerative condition, which has previously been thought to be due to a protein known as TPD-43.

Carrying out tests on mice, the researchers looked at the reasons behind this much more closely, finding that higher levels of TPD-43 affected the scaffold structure, resulting in the loosening of important bonds and therefore leading to loss of certain cellular functions.

TPD-43 was found to operate in this way in mice with a form of motor neurone disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, as well as Frontotemporal Dementia, which is the second most common form of the degenerative condition.

In light of this, it is thought this is how patients with Alzheimer's disease could be affected too, highlighting scope for further research regarding this and potential drug development in the future.

Lead author of the paper Professor Chris Miller from the college's Institute of Psychiatry commented: "Our findings are important in terms of advancing our understanding of basic biology, but may also provide a potential new target for developing new treatments for these devastating disorders."

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