Protein to treat Alzheimer’s could be double-edged

June 28th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 28 (IANS) Boosting the output of a protein called neprilysin can cut down plaque formation and neuron death linked with Alzheimer’s, research with fruit flies has demonstrated. Amyloid-beta protein plaque build-up within the brain is believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s progression.

Normally, special enzymes chew up and clear these plaques, and deficiencies in these enzymes are one of the potential causes of the disease.

In fact, a major amyloid degrader called neprilysin (NEP) decreases naturally with age, possibly the reason why the elderly are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s.

Enhancing NEP production might therefore be a sound therapy, and studies in mice have suggested it has potential.

However, no studies have examined the potential side-effects of over-activating NEP.

On the positive side, NEP expression did reduce plaque deposits and neuron damage in the flies as expected.

But NEP also reduced the activity of important neural proteins called CREB proteins and shortened the average lifespan of the flies, from 60 to 50.

The study, by research groups led by Koichi Iijima and Kanae Iijima-Ando, illustrated the care that must be taken when considering Alzheimer’s treatments.

It has suggested that its critical to better understand normal aging when dealing with Alzheimer’s or other age-related conditions.

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