Researchers test sugary solution to Alzheimer’s

February 26, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Slowing or preventing the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal brain condition expected to hit one in 85 people globally by 2050, may be as simple as ensuring a brain protein’s sugar levels are maintained.

That’s the conclusion seven researchers, including David Vocadlo, a Simon Fraser University chemistry professor and Canada Research Chair in Chemical Glycobiology, make in the latest issue of .

The journal has published the researchers’ latest paper Increasing O-GlcNAc slows neurodegeneration and stabilizes against aggregation.

Vocadlo and his colleagues describe how they’ve used an inhibitor they’ve chemically created — Thiamet-G — to stop O-GlcNAcase, a naturally occurring enzyme, from depleting the protein Tau of sugar molecules.

“The general thinking in science,” says Vocadlo, “is that Tau stabilizes structures in the brain called microtubules. They are kind of like highways inside cells that allow cells to move things around.”

Previous research has shown that the linkage of these sugar molecules to proteins, like Tau, in cells is essential. In fact, says Vocadlo, researchers have tried but failed to rear mice that don’t have these sugar molecules attached to proteins.

Vocadlo, an accomplished chess player in his spare time, is having great success checkmating troublesome enzymes with inhibitors he and his students are creating in the SFU chemistry department’s Laboratory of Chemical Glycobiology.

Research prior to Vocadlo’s has shown that clumps of Tau from an Alzheimer brain have almost none of this sugar attached to them, and O-GlcNAcase is the enzyme that is robbing them.

Such clumping is an early event in the development of Alzheimer’s and the number of clumps correlate with the disease’s severity.

Scott Yuzwa and Xiaoyang Shan, grad students in Vocadlo’s lab, found that Thiamet-G blocks O-GlcNAcase from removing sugars off Tau in mice that drank water with a daily dose of the inhibitor. Yuzwa and Shan are co-first authors on this paper.

The research team found that mice given the inhibitor had fewer clumps of Tau and maintained healthier brains.

“This work shows targeting the enzyme O-GlcNAcase with inhibitors is a new potential approach to treating Alzheimer’s,” says Vocadlo. “This is vital since to date there are no treatments to slow its progression.

“A lot of effort is needed to tackle this disease and different approaches should be pursued to maximize the chance of successfully fighting it. In the short term, we need to develop better inhibitors of the and test them in mice. Once we have better inhibitors, they can be clinically tested.

Explore further: Tuberculosis researchers discover potential new target for treatments

More information: www.nature.com/nchembio/index.html , DOI:10.1038/nchembio.797

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

New polymer able to store energy at higher temperatures

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at the Pennsylvania State University has created a new polymer that is able to store energy at higher temperatures than conventional polymers without breaking down. In their paper published ...

How to look for a few good catalysts

July 30, 2015

Two key physical phenomena take place at the surfaces of materials: catalysis and wetting. A catalyst enhances the rate of chemical reactions; wetting refers to how liquids spread across a surface.

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birger
not rated yet Feb 27, 2012
"expected to hit one in 85 people globally by 2050"

Spelling error... the proportion is MUCH larger than that. Indeed, research at Umeå University indicates that half of those born today will suffer some kind of dementia at high age.

"The research team found that mice given the inhibitor had fewer clumps of Tau and maintained healthier brains"

Mice engineered to express Alzheimer-like symptoms have genes from a small subset of humans. There is no guarantee that a cure will work beyond this subset.
Sorry to rain on your parade, but I don't want people to get unrealistic hope. This doesn not mean the research is unimportant -on the contrary all basic research is crucial to defeating this horrible disease.

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.