Mechanism that protects against development of Alzheimer’’s identified

February 24th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 28 (ANI): Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have identified the mechanism that protects against the development of Alzheimer’’s disease.

They found that the activity of the enzyme a-secretase is mainly responsible for the protective effect.

“In the past, we postulated that the enzyme a-secretase was involved in preventing the formation of cerebral plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’’s disease and also enhanced cerebral functions, such as learning and memory,” said Professor Falk Fahrenholz of the Institute of Biochemistry.

“The a-secretase enzyme is a highly complex one, with many other functions. For example, it also relays signals from the intercellular space into cells and interacts with molecules on other cells,” he added.

In the study involving transgenic mice, the researchers found that is the enzymatic activity alone that guarantees the protective effects.

If this activity is neutralised, the laboratory mice exhibit the symptoms that are characteristic of Alzheimer’’s disease: impaired learning ability, poor memory capacity and the build-up of plaques.

It is thus possible that the enzymatic activity of a-secretase could represent the starting point for the development of future treatments.

The researchers suggest that it is not the plaque build-up itself that is responsible for the loss of memory capacity.

Prof. Fahrenholz said, “It is important to consider other aspects in addition to the plaques themselves, particularly their precursors, which are a real cause of the disease.”

The study appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’’s Disease (JAD). (ANI)

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