Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It affects millions of people every year and at the moment it is not reversible. However, a new strategy that could be a major step towards finding a cure for this disease is presented by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"Scientists in the field have been focusing mostly on the final stages of Alzheimer's disease," said lead author Cristian Lasagna-Reeves from Zoghbi lab. "Here we tried to find clues about what is happening at the very early stages of the illness, before clinically irreversible symptoms appear, with the intention of preventing or reducing those early events that lead to devastating changes in the brain decades later."
Scientists stated that if they could find ways to prevent or reduce tau accumulation in the brain, they would uncover new possibilities for developing drug treatments for a certain disease such as Alzheimer's Disease. Tau is a protein that when it accumulates as the person ages, increases the vulnerability of the brain to developing Alzheimer's.
To find which enzymes affect tau accumulation, the scientists systematically inhibited enzymes called kinases. These are the enzymes that catalyze the transfer of a phosphate group from ATP to a specified molecule.
"We inhibited about 600 kinases one by one and found one, called Nuak1, whose inhibition resulted in reduced levels of tau," said Zoghbi.
Researchers have also done experiments. The studies are examined on cultured human cells and the laboratory fruit fly.
"When people started taking drugs that lower cholesterol, they lived longer and healthier lives rather than dying earlier of heart disease," said Zoghbi. "Nobody has thought about Alzheimer's disease in that light. Tau in Alzheimer's can be compared to cholesterol in heart disease," said Zoghbi.