Enzyme Slows Alzheimer's Disease

WEDNESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that a natural enzyme may help prevent Alzheimer's disease onset.

Scientists had already known that the enzyme, called Pin1, blocks the formation of tangle-like lesions (tau tangles) common to the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

This new study, conducted in animals and led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), found that Pin1 also helps protect against the development of amyloid peptide plaques, another kind of brain lesion that's characteristic of Alzheimer's.

The findings, published in the March 23 issue of Nature, provide further evidence that Pin1 plays a crucial role in guarding people against age-related neurodegeneration. The study also provides the first evidence of a direct link between amyloid peptide plaques and tau tangles.

"Throughout the years, intensive studies have been done to find out the causes of these two major lesions, but the exact relationship between the two has remained controversial and elusive," study senior author Dr. Kun Ping Lu, an investigator in the division of cancer cell biology at BIDMC and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

"Coupled with recent independent studies showing that genetic changes in the human Pin1 gene are associated with reduced Pin1 protein levels as well as an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, these new results suggest that lack of sufficient Pin1 enzyme may be a key culprit in the onset of Alzheimer's disease," Lu said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Harvard Medical School, news release, March 22, 2006

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