Researcher developing novel therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Jul 08, 2010

A University of Oklahoma researcher is developing a novel therapy for Alzheimer's disease using "biopharmaceutical proteases" to attack the toxic plaque that builds up in the brain of an Alzheimer's patient -- an approach that he predicts will be lower in cost and higher in effectiveness than current therapies.

Peter J. Heinzelman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Mechanical Engineering, recently received a $75,000 grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to pursue this research, which includes the development of a library of biopharmaceutical proteases for public use.

Heinzelman's previous research led to the idea that proteases, or proteins that degrade other proteins, would be more effective as a therapy for Alzheimer's disease than existing approaches. The brain is surrounded by a barrier of cells that allows glucose to pass through but is resistant to and .

By virtue of a single protease molecule able to degrade thousands of the plaque molecules, these proteases should be capable of delivering a catalytic benefit even if only small amounts pass through the cell barrier surrounding the brain.

"Digestive enzymes are promiscuous," says Heinzelman. "We can create catalytic proteases that attack the beta-amyloid plaque that cause neurons in the brain to die. Current therapies use amyloid-binding that are created by the body or injected to get rid of the plaque, but these antibodies used to attack the problematic Abeta molecules can only bind one time and clear one Abeta molecule, then they are done."

The delivery system is problematic, too. Heinzelman suggests an approach that addresses both therapeutic efficacy and delivery. He wants to re-engineer an existing technology to link proteases with "ferrying" antibodies that can encourage passage of the proteases from the circulation side across the cell barrier and into the . This approach has been demonstrated in the laboratory.

Another aspect of the OCAST grant is the development of a library of proteases that will be made freely available and could become a powerful tool for the scientific community. Heinzelman is working with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation on this grant.

Explore further: Researchers reveal pathway that contributes to Alzheimer's disease

Provided by University of Oklahoma

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Engineering a 'Trojan horse' to sneak drugs into the brain

Sep 13, 2006

Beset by a host of debilitating and potentially fatal disorders, the human brain is in desperate need of a few good drugs. The catch, however, is that nature has set up a roadblock known as the blood-brain barrier — intended ...

Does growth hormone drug slow Alzheimer's disease?

Nov 17, 2008

A new study shows that a drug that increases the release of growth hormone failed to slow the rate of progression of Alzheimer's disease in humans. The new research is published in the November 18, 2008, print issue of Neurology, the me ...

Recommended for you

Neurons express 'gloss' using three perceptual parameters

8 hours ago

Japanese researchers showed monkeys a number of images representing various glosses and then they measured the responses of 39 neurons by using microelectrodes. They found that a specific population of neurons ...

Scientists show rise and fall of brain volume

11 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—We can witness our bodies mature, then gradually grow wrinkled and weaker with age, but it is only recently that scientists have been able to track a similar progression in the nerve bundles ...

User comments : 0