Science May Be One Step Closer to Finding Alzheimer’s Cure
The discovery of how a naturally occurring human enzyme acts could be a game changer in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found it may reduce levels of harmful chemicals in the brain that are linked to the condition.
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s, afflict millions in the U.S. alone. The slow deterioration of neurons associated with the disorders results in a gradual loss of cognition, emotion and memory. As no cure exists, a new therapeutic strategy is badly needed.
Amyloid Formation – the Culprit Behind Alzheimer’s
Strongly implicated in the damage to the neurons is the accumulation of amyloids, which are abnormally folded proteins that clump together in an insoluble mass. What makes proteins fold and make these harmful neurotoxins? Many of those that form amyloids contain proline, an amino acid with a unique structure that produces a bend in the amino acid chain. Theses bends help induce stacking of adjacent parts of the protein, which leads to the development of amyloid.
The Role of Human Enzyme CyP40
Here is where the human enzyme CyP40 enters the picture. During normal protein folding, CyP40 attaches to prolines, an action that facilitates their characteristic chain-bending configuration. Since it aids in the formation of amyloids, it appears to be part of the problem. However, like most enzymes, it can operate in reverse, a function that unbends the chain, thus preventing the development of amyloid.
Researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa working with mice found that CyP40 had the following two promising actions:
- It reduced the aggregation of tau, a form of amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease. This action made the tau more soluble, which preserved brain neurons and helped prevent cognitive deficits.
- The enzyme decreased the aggregation of alpha-synuclein, an amyloid linked to Parkinson’s disease.
These actions have been seen in earlier test tube studies, but the current study is the first in an animal study to show CyP40 can break up the amyloid accumulation responsible for degenerative disease.
How CyP40 Works
So how exactly does CyP40 accomplish these amazing feats? While the answer isn’t clear, the authors provide two theories. The enzyme might attach to aggregated protein and by straightening the proline bend, it helps unstack the amino acid chain. Alternatively, the enzyme may attach to the protein before it aggregates, thus separating it and preventing clumping.
Aside from CyP40, humans have 41 other enzymes that have similar actions. In futures studies, the scientists intend to screen them to determine if any additional ones also suppress amyloid formation.
“The finding that CyP40 can untangle clumps of tau and alpha-synuclein suggests that it, or one of the more than 40 other human proteins with similar activity, may have a role to play in treating neurodegenerative disease,” researcher Laura Blair said.
Let’s recap. We know that Alzheimer’s is caused by the buildup of misfolded proteins. It appears possible that the development of a tool capable of unlocking these abnormal folds is on the horizon. Such a remarkable prospect is encouraging.
The study was published in the journal PLOS Biology.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.