The good and the bad of a potential Alzheimer's target

Jun 27, 2008

Research in fruit flies has shown that enhancing the production of a protein called neprilysin can reduce the formation of plaques and neuron death associated with Alzheimer's, at the expense of reducing the flies' lifespan.

The buildup of amyloid-beta protein plaques within the brain is a major hallmark of Alzheimer's, and one that is believed to contribute to disease progression. Normally, special enzymes chew up and clear these plaques, and deficiencies in these enzymes are one potential disease cause.

In fact, one major amyloid degrader called neprilysin (NEP) decreases naturally with age and may be the reason the elderly are more at risk for Alzheimer's. Enhancing NEP production might therefore be an attractive therapy, and studies in mice have suggested it has potential. However, no studies have really looked into possible adverse effects of over-activating NEP (after all, nature probably turns it off for a reason).

In this study, research groups led by Koichi Iijima and Kanae Iijima-Ando did just that, using transgenic fruit flies expressing human NEP and/or amlyoid-beta protein. On the positive side, NEP expression did reduce plaque deposits and neuron damage in the flies as expected; on the other hand, NEP also reduced the activity of important neural proteins called CREB proteins and shortened the average lifespan of the flies (normal flies live about 60 days) by about 10 days (although NEP-flies did live longer than those only expressing amyloid protein).

This study illustrates the care that must be taken when considering Alzheimer's treatments, and that it's critical to better understand normal aging when dealing with Alzheimer's or other age-related conditions.

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Explore further: West Africa's Ebola outbreak has claimed 137 lives

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

11 hours ago

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Tracking flu levels with Wikipedia

11 hours ago

Can monitoring Wikipedia hits show how many people have the flu? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, USA, have developed a method of estimating levels of influenza-like illness in the American population by analysing ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...