29 August 2009

UCLA researchers determine toxicity levels of Alzheimer's clusters in brain

Findings provide target for new classes of therapeutic drugs
UCLA: 13 August 2009
Scientists have long suspected that Alzheimer's disease is caused by plaques formed when the small protein amyloid-beta (Aβ) binds to itself in clusters and undergoes a chemical change, creating protein deposits in the brain.

However, recent studies have suggested it is not the plaques that cause Alzheimer's but the small, grape-like clusters of Aβ. The clusters vary in size, and the relationship between cluster size and toxicity — the ability to kill nerve cells — has never been determined accurately.

Now, by creating various sizes of Aβ clusters in the laboratory that exactly match what forms in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, UCLA neurologists have determined that toxicity increases dramatically as the clusters increase in size from two to three to four Aβ proteins. The researchers also report that although larger clusters are more toxic than smaller ones, large formations are relatively rare; smaller formations are more numerous and are thus an inviting target for the development of new therapeutic drugs. … > full press release

Related journal article: Structure–neurotoxicity relationships of amyloid β-protein oligomers. PNAS published online before print August 12, 2009, doi:10.1073/pnas.0905127106

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