Chemists make discovery that may lead to drug treatment possibilities for Alzheimer's

February 10, 2011
This is a piece of the Alzheimer's peptide. Credit: Bowers and the Buratto Groups, UCSB

UC Santa Barbara scientists have made a discovery that has the potential for use in the early diagnosis and eventual treatment of plaque-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Type 2 diabetes. Their work is published in a recent issue of Nature Chemistry.

The amyloid diseases are characterized by plaque that aggregates into toxic agents that interact with cellular machinery, explained Michael T. Bowers, lead author and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Other amyloid diseases include , Huntington's disease, and atherosclerosis. are protein fibrils that, in the case of Alzheimer's disease, develop prior to the appearance of symptoms.

"The systems we use are model systems, but the results are groundbreaking," said Bowers. He explained that his research provides the first examples of the conversion of randomly assembled aggregates of small peptides into ordered beta sheets that comprise fibrils. Fibrils are the final structural state of the aggregation process.

In the article, Bowers describes how understanding the fundamental forces that relate aggregation, shape, and biochemistry of soluble peptide aggregates is central to developing diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for amyloid diseases.

Bowers and his research team used a method called ion-mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry (IMS-MS). This method enabled the team to deduce the peptide self-assembly method. They then examined a series of amyloid-forming peptides clipped from larger or proteins associated with disease.

Bowers explained that IMS-MS has the potential to open new avenues for investigating the pathogenic mechanisms of amyloid diseases, their early diagnosis and eventual treatment.

The first author of the paper is Christian Blieholder, a Humbolt Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSB. Thomas Wyttenbach, UCSB associate researcher, is a co-author. Nicholas F. Dupuis, who was a Ph.D. student at UCSB at the time of the research, is also a co-author; he is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado.

Explore further: Role of anesthetics in Alzheimer's disease: Molecular details revealed

Related Stories

Vaccine triggers immune response, prevents Alzheimer's

May 19, 2008

A vaccine created by University of Rochester Medical Center scientists prevents the development of Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology in mice without causing inflammation or significant side effects.

Researchers find new piece in Alzheimer's puzzle

February 25, 2009

Yale researchers have filled in a missing gap on the molecular road map of Alzheimer's disease. In the Feb. 26 issue of the journal Nature, the Yale team reports that cellular prion proteins trigger the process by which amyloid-beta ...

Alzheimer's research yields potential drug target

July 1, 2009

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara and several other institutions have found laboratory evidence that a cluster of peptides may be the toxic agent in Alzheimer's disease. Scientists say the discovery may lead to new drugs for ...

New therapy targets for amyloid disease

December 4, 2009

A major discovery is challenging accepted thinking about amyloids - the fibrous protein deposits associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's - and may open up a potential new area for therapeutics.

Recommended for you

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...

How a molecular motor untangles protein

October 1, 2015

A marvelous molecular motor that untangles protein in bacteria may sound interesting, yet perhaps not so important. Until you consider the hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases—Huntington's disease has tangled ...

Anti-aging treatment for smart windows

October 1, 2015

Electrochromic windows, so-called 'smart windows', share a well-known problem with rechargeable batteries – their limited lifespan. Researchers at Uppsala University have now worked out an entirely new way to rejuvenate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.