Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Versatile Proteins Could be New Target for Alzheimer’s Drugs

Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Last Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Bookmark and Share
NIH-funded discovery began with asking how the brain learns to see.

A class of proteins that controls visual system development in the young brain also appears to affect vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease in the aging brain.

The proteins, which are found in humans and mice, join a limited roster of molecules that scientists are studying in hopes of finding an effective drug to slow the disease process.

“People are just beginning to look at what these proteins do in the brain. While more research is needed, these proteins may be a brand new target for Alzheimer’s drugs,” said Carla Shatz, Ph.D., the study’s lead investigator.

Dr. Shatz is a professor of biology and neurobiology at Stanford University in California, and the director of Stanford's interdisciplinary biosciences program, BioX.

She and her colleagues report that LilrB2 (pronounced “leer-bee-2”) in humans and PirB (“peer-bee”) in mice can physically partner with beta-amyloid, a protein fragment that accumulates in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease. This in turn triggers a harmful chain reaction in brain cells.

In a mouse model of Alzheimer’s, depleting PirB in the brain prevented the chain reaction and reduced memory loss.

The research was funded in part by the National Eye Institute, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), all part of the National Institutes of Health. It is reported in the Sept. 20 issue of Science.

“These findings provide valuable insight into Alzheimer’s, a complex disorder involving the abnormal build-up of proteins, inflammation and a host of other cellular changes,” said Neil Buckholtz, Ph.D., director of the neuroscience division at NIA.

Buckholtz continued, “Our understanding of the various proteins involved, and how these proteins interact with each other, may one day result in effective interventions that delay, treat or even prevent this dreaded disease.”

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, and affects as many as 5 million Americans.

Large clumps - or plaques - of beta-amyloid and other proteins accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s, but many researchers believe the disease process starts long before the plaques appear.

Even in the absence of plaques, beta-amyloid has been shown to cause damage to brain cells and the delicate connections between them.

Dr. Shatz’s discovery took a unique path. She is a renowned neuroscientist, but Alzheimer’s disease is not her focus area. For decades, she has studied plasticity - the brain’s capacity to learn and adapt - focusing mostly on the visual system.

“Dr. Shatz has always been a leader in the field of plasticity, and now she’s taken yet another innovative step - giving us new insights into the abnormal plasticity that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Michael Steinmetz, Ph.D., a program director at NEI.

Steinmetz continued, “These findings rest squarely on basic research into the development of the visual system.” NEI has funded Dr. Shatz for more than 35 years.

During development, the eyes compete to connect within a limited territory of the brain - a process known as ocular dominance plasticity. The competition takes place during a limited time in early life. If visual experience through one eye is impaired during that time - for example, by a congenital cataract (present from birth) - it can permanently lose territory to the other eye.

“Ocular dominance is a classic example of how a brain circuit can change with experience,” Dr. Shatz said. “We’ve been trying to understand it at a molecular level for a long time.”

Her search eventually led to PirB, a protein on the surface of nerve cells in the mouse brain. She discovered that mice without the gene for PirB have an increase in ocular dominance plasticity.

In adulthood, when the visual parts of their brains should be mature, the connections there are still flexible. This established PirB as a “brake on plasticity” in the healthy brain, Dr. Shatz said.

It wasn’t long before she began to wonder if PirB might also put a brake on plasticity in Alzheimer’s disease. In the current study, she pursued that question with Taeho Kim, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in her lab, and Christopher M. William, M.D., Ph.D., a neuropathology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Bradley Hyman, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology at Mass General, was a collaborator on the project.

First, the team repeated the genetic experiment that Dr. Shatz had done in normal mice - but this time, they deleted the PirB gene in the Alzheimer’s mice. By about nine months of age, these mice typically develop learning and memory problems. But that didn’t happen in the absence of PirB.

Next, the researchers began thinking about how PirB might fit into the Alzheimer’s disease process, and particularly how it might interact with beta-amyloid. Dr. Kim theorized that since PirB resides on the surface of nerve cells, it might act as a binding site - or receptor - for beta-amyloid. Indeed, he found that PirB binds tightly to beta-amyloid, especially to tiny clumps of it that are believed to ultimately grow into plaques.

Beta-amyloid is known to weaken synapses - the connections between nerve cells. The researchers found that PirB appears to be an accomplice in this process. Without PirB, synapses in the mouse brain were resistant to the effects of beta-amyloid. Other experiments showed that binding between PirB and beta-amyloid can trigger a cascade of harmful reactions that can lead to the breakdown of synapses.

Although PirB is a mouse protein, humans have a closely related protein called LilrB2. The researchers found that this protein also binds tightly to beta-amyloid. By examining brain tissue from people with Alzheimer’s disease, they also found evidence that LilrB2 may trigger the same harmful reactions that PirB can trigger in the mouse brain.

“These are novel results, and direct interaction between beta-amyloid and PirB-related proteins opens up welcome avenues for investigating new drug targets for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS.

Dr. Shatz said she hopes to interest other researchers to work on developing drugs to block PirB and LilrB2. Currently, no drugs treat the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

Most of the interventions that have reached clinical testing are designed to clear away beta-amyloid. To date, only two other beta-amyloid receptors (PrP-C and EphB2) have been found and are being pursued as drug targets.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Vital Protein in Healthy Fertilization Process Identified
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered a protein that plays a vital role in healthy egg-sperm union in mice.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Young South African Women can Adhere to Daily PrEP Regimen as HIV Prevention
NIH-funded study finds men in Bangkok, Harlem also successful in taking daily dose.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Study Shows Promise of Precision Medicine for Most Common Type of Lymphoma
The study appeared online July 20, 2015, in Nature Medicine.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
NIH Joins Public-Private Partnership to Fund Research on Autism Biomarkers
Biomarkers Consortium project to improve tools for measuring and treating social impairment in children with autism.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
NIH Study Identifies Gene Variant Linked to Compulsive Drinking
Mice carrying the Met68BDNF gene variant would consume excessive amounts of alcohol.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
HIV Control Through Treatment Durably Prevents Heterosexual Transmission of Virus
NIH-funded trial proves suppressive antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infected people effective in protecting uninfected partners.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Early Antiretroviral Therapy Prevents Non-AIDS Outcomes in HIV-infected People
NIH-supported findings illustrate manifold benefit of therapy.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Futuristic Brain Probe Allows for Wireless Control of Neurons
NIH-funded scientists developed an ultra-thin, minimally invasive device for controlling brain cells with drugs and light.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
House Votes in Favor of Bill Boosting NIH Funding
The US House of Representatives today overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that would increase funding to the NIH by about $10 billion, help speed the development of new drugs, and advance precision medicine initiatives.
Monday, July 13, 2015
NIH-funded Vaccine for West Nile Virus Enters Human Clinical Trials
Enrollment is expected to be completed by December 2015.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
In Blinding Eye Disease, Trash-Collecting Cells Go Awry, Accelerate Damage
NIH research points to microglia as potential therapeutic target in retinitis pigmentosa.
Friday, July 03, 2015
Boys More Likely to Have Antipsychotics Prescribed, Regardless of Age
NIH-funded study is the first look at antipsychotic prescriptions patterns in the U.S.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
Potential Therapeutic for Blinding Eye Disease
NIH research points to microglia as potential therapeutic target in retinitis pigmentosa.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
New Medication for Alcohol Use Disorder
NIH begins clinical trial investigating a potential treatment for alcohol use disorder.
Friday, June 26, 2015
NIH Begins Clinical Trial of New Medication for Alcohol Use Disorder
Clinical trial will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of gabapentin enacarbil in treating alcohol use disorder.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Scientific News
RNAi Screening Trends
Understand current trends and learn which application areas are expected to gain in popularity over the next few years.
Diagnostic Test Developed for Enterovirus D68
researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a diagnostic test to quickly detect enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a respiratory virus that caused unusually severe illness in children last year.
How a Kernel Got Naked and Corn Became King
Ten thousand years ago, a golden grain got naked, brought people together and grew to become one of the top agricultural commodities on the planet.
Sweet Revenge Against Superbugs
A special type of synthetic sugar could be the latest weapon in the fight against superbugs.
New Material Opens Possibilities for Super-Long-Acting Pills
A pH-responsive polymer gel could create swallow able devices, including capsules for ultra-long drug delivery.
How To Keep Your Rice Arsenic-Free
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a breakthrough in discovering how to lower worrying levels of arsenic in rice that is eaten all over the world.
New Tool For Investigating RNA Gone Awry
A new technology – called “Sticky-flares” – developed by nanomedicine experts at Northwestern University offers the first real-time method to track and observe the dynamics of RNA distribution as it is transported inside living cells.
Computer Model Could Explain how Simple Molecules Took First Step Toward Life
Two Brookhaven researchers developed theoretical model to explain the origins of self-replicating molecules.
New Tech Enables Epigenomic Analysis with a Mere 100 Cells
A new technology that will dramatically enhance investigations of epigenomes, the machinery that turns on and off genes and a very prominent field of study in diseases such as stem cell differentiation, inflammation and cancer has been developed by researchers at Virginia Tech.
Access Denied: Leukemia Thwarted by Cutting Off Link to Environmental Support
A new study reveals a protein’s critical – and previously unknown -- role in the development and progression of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a fast-growing and extremely difficult-to-treat blood cancer.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!