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New Target For Medicine To Combat Alzheimer’s

February 13, 2009

Adapted from VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)

VIB scientists connected to the Center for Human Heredity have demonstrated that a particular protein is extremely well suited to be a target for a new medicine against Alzheimer's disease. Their research findings are being published in the authoritative journal Science. The research has been conducted in collaboration with Galapagos, the biotechnology company that discovered the protein's role in Alzheimer's disease and that will now further the search for an appropriate medicine. At present, there is no effective remedy for Alzheimer's.

Current medicines for Alzheimer's patients sustain the memory functions for a short time, but they are unable to stop the brain cells from dying off. At best, they are able to limit the loss of memory during the early phases of the disease. The brains of Alzheimer's patients typically show the presence of amyloid plaques, which are abnormal accumulations of a protein (β-amyloid) between the neurons. The sticky β-amyloid develops when the precursor protein (amyloid precursor protein or APP) is cut into pieces incorrectly.

Several years ago, Bart De Strooper and other researchers elucidated the way in which these plaques originate and discovered that secretases play a large role in this process. Now, under his direction, and in collaboration with researchers from the biotech company Galapagos, Amantha Thathiah and her colleagues have investigated whether additional substances are also involved in the development of the plaques. Galapagos has identified the GPR3 protein as a new player. The VIB researchers have been able to show—in vitro (in cells isolated and studied in the laboratory) as well as in vivo (in living animals—mice, in this instance)—that blocking GPR3 leads to reduction of the plaques. The GPR3 protein is an important target molecule for the eventual development of a new medicine against Alzheimer's disease.

It is possible that 'the cure for Alzheimer's' will never be able to restore a patient's memory—but, hopefully, the disorder can be arrested, saving as many brain cells as possible.

View all news updates for Alzheimer's disease


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Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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