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New protein structure could fight off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

New protein structure could fight off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
29th July 2014

Scientists believe they have devised a new protein structure that could help to neutralise the toxic effects of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

Researchers from the University of Washington have designed a structure that has the ability to halt the negative changes of the body's cells that turn into the state linked with such diseases - an abnormally folded version. 

The proteins are stopped from building up into this mutated form by this synthetic molecule, which has provided new hope that such debilitating diseases could be combatted. 

Such conditions are characterised by an accumulation of this sort - for instance, the hallmark of dementia is the clumping together of amyloid-beta particles. 

It is hoped the structures could be adapted further to allow them to attach with the proteins in specific conditions. Doctors are optimistic that these designed compounds can help to diagnose amyloid diseases and be used to treat them or halt the onset of symptoms. However, only time will tell whether or not this becomes a reality.

Senior author Valerie Daggett, who is professor of bioengineering at the university, said: "If you can truly catch and neutralise the toxic version of these proteins, then you hopefully never get any further damage in the body. 

"What's critical with this and what has never been done before is that a single peptide sequence will work against the toxic versions of a number of different amyloid proteins and peptides."

The full findings of this research can be viewed in the journal eLife. 

After it was revealed that the overwhelming majority of Alzheimer's trials (99.6 per cent) had failed, researchers are eager to try to devise a cure for the condition that affects approximately 800,000 individuals in the UK. As the population grows older, this figure is expected to hit the one million mark, further emphasising the need for effective procedures.

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes.