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Protein fragments linked to staving off Alzheimer's

Protein fragments linked to staving off Alzheimer's
16th May 2014

Researchers believe certain protein fragments could help to protect those with Alzheimer's. 

Professor Illana Gozes, who is a member of Tel Aviv University's Sagol School of Neuroscience, inserted them into mice who had symptoms of the degenerative condition and witnessed they could help to preserve the brain's ability. 

Such findings, which are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, could be instrumental in developing a treatment for humans who have the disease.

The research targeted the transportation system within cells, which is known as the microtubule network. This tends to be adversely affected in conditions such as Alzheimer's, but also others like Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 

Professor Gozes previously found that NAP, a tiny piece of protein that is critical for brain information, worked as "train tracks" to enable biological material to be transported. As a result, it stabilised this communication system and helped to combat any breakdown.

This finding led to searching whether or not a similar molecule to NAP exists in other proteins, which resulted in the discovery of these new protein fragments that possess similar qualities. 

Such newly-uncovered snippets work to protect this method of communication in the same way that NAP did. This is especially important because nerve cells "have long processes and would otherwise collapse", Professor Gozes said. 

The research consisted of looking at one part of the microtubule - the tubulin and the protein TAU, which are important for its regulation. If TAU proteins are corrupted, they can form tangles that lead to Alzheimer's. 

It transpired mice models with dementia - which had low levels of NAP - experienced an increase once treatment with the tubulin fragment had been carried out. 

Similarly, the team of researchers noticed that tubulin corrected the brain-to-body mass ratio that had been skewed by dementia. 

"We clearly see here the protective effect of the treatment. We witnessed the restorative and protective effects of totally new protein fragments, derived from proteins critical to cell function, in tissue cultures and on animal models," Professor Gozes, who is also the director of the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, commented.