Patrick Fraering's laboratory has made a discovery which could revolutionize the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Jul 14, 2014
New advances in research on Alzheimer’s disease were made by a team of biologists from Inserm. The French team was successful in correcting a behavioural disorder in a fish with Alzheimer’s by injecting it with FKB52, a protein naturally present in healthy humans. Researchers had already demonstrated the protective qualities of FKB52 in humans in 2010. This success is the first step towards a treatment that can be applied to humans.
The disease is caused by the overproduction of a molecule in the brain, amyloid beta peptide (1-42). The molecule forms plaques on the brain that kill neurones and cause the disease. We have discovered that two groups of molecules reduce the formation of this peptide. These molecules act on the protein APP which, after the natural process whereby it is cleaved by the enzyme gamma-secretase, will cease to produce, or produce less of, the peptide in question.
Previously, clinical research was focused on the enzyme gamma secretase. We already knew that it produced the peptide after cutting the APP protein, so tests focused on enzyme inhibitors. The problem was that there were numerous adverse effects as other elements essential to cell regulation are also produced by the cleavage of APP. The molecules at the centre of our research do not cause these adverse effects; they allow the production of the “good” molecules.
Not exactly. When the cause of the disease is congenital, patients could take the medicine as a preventative measure provided that clinical tests are successful. As for other Alzheimer’s patients, if the disease is diagnosed early, the treatment could prevent it from developing further and therefore extend life expectancy.⁄
Patrick Fraering is a lecturer at the School of Life Sciences and researcher at the EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute, in Lausanne.