Potato virus may be key to Alzhemier’s

August 16th, 2008 - 3:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 16 (IANS) A virus infecting potatoes bears striking similarity with a key protein implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are hopeful of developing antibodies with its help to slow or prevent this condition. Studies in mice have demonstrated that vaccinations with the amyloid beta protein (a key factor in Alzhemier’s) to produce A antibodies can slow disease progression, possibly by promoting the destruction of amyloid plaques.

Some early human trials have been promising, but had to be halted due to the risk of autoimmune encephalitis.

One way to make Alzheimer’s vaccinations safer would be to use a closely-related, but not human, protein as the vaccine, much like cowpox virus is used for smallpox immunisations.

Robert Friedland and colleagues used this concept on an amyloid-like protein found in potato virus (PVY). They injected PVY into mice followed by monthly boosters for four months.

The researchers found that the mice produced strong levels of antibodies that could attach to amyloid beta protein both in both solution and in tissue samples of Alzheimer’s patients.

And although the levels were lower, mice also developed A-antibodies if given injections of PVY-infected potato leaf as opposed to purified PVY.

Friedland and colleagues note that potato virus is a fairly common infection that poses no risk to humans, even if eaten. While tests of PVY antibodies will ultimately determine how useful they can be, they may be a promising lead to treating this debilitating disease.

These findings were published in the Friday issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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