New Research in Battling Alzheimer’s Impact On Memory

The national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, was held in Dallas, March 29 – April 2. The following papers were among the 4,700 presentations made:

New Research in Battling Alzheimer's

DALLAS, April 2 — Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and common neurodegenerative disorder with widespread brain destruction and no cure. Fourteen research papers on Alzheimer's disease and related issues were presented here this week at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, world's largest scientific society.

With the aid of high-powered instruments, researchers at Case Western Reserve University may have found the first step in the formation of toxic plaque believed responsible for the destruction of neurons in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. According to Michael G. Zagorski, Ph.D., this information could be used to design drugs that might prevent either this initial step or its continuation into Alzheimer's disease. A sequence of 40 to 42 amino acids, a so-called beta-peptide, is the major protein component that eventually aggregates and precipitates as plaque — an insoluble amyloid deposit — in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The Case Western Reserve team has used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and a technique called circular dichroism to see what happens as the beta-peptide, which is originally soluble in water, slowly changes into the insoluble plaque that is toxic to cells. The first step in this process, which may be triggered by a changing biochemistry as one ages, has now been determined to be the formation of extended chain-like structures that fold back on themselves to form the toxic structure.

At Queen's University and Neurochem, Inc. in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, scientists have found about 100 small organic molecules that bind to the beta-peptide implicated in Alzheimer's disease and subsequently may prevent it from aggregating into the insoluble plaque. Although no good animal model exists for Alzheimer's disease, according to Donald F. Weaver, Ph.D., researchers are currently testing their compounds in mice with amyloid-laden spleens. After molecular modeling simulations and extensive structure-activity relationship determinations, the Canadian group has found a lead molecule that looks very promising. It "can mop it all up," says Weaver. He cautions, however, that any human application is at least two years away.

Source: American Chemical Society: April 2, 1998

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