Health News: Scientists Gain New Understanding of Alzheimer's Trigger

A highly toxic beta-amyloid—a protein that exists in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease victims—has been found to greatly increase the toxicity of other more common and less toxic beta-amyloids, serving as a possible “trigger” for the advent and development of Alzheimer’s, researchers at the University of Virginia and German biotech company Probiodrug have discovered.

The finding reported in the online edition of Nature, could lead to more effective treatments for Alzheimer’s. “This form of beta-amyloid, called pyroglutamylated (or pyroglu) beta-amyloid, is a real bad guy in Alzheimer’s disease,” says principal investigator George Bloom, a University of Virginia professor of biology and cell biology.

Already, Probiodrug AG has completed phase 1 clinical trials in Europe with a small molecule that inhibits an enzyme that aids in the formation of beta-amyloid.

“We’ve confirmed that [pyroglu] converts more abundant beta-amyloids into a form that is up to 100 times more toxic, making this a very dangerous killer of brain cells and an attractive target for drug therapy.”