In what could be a very significant discovery regarding the biochemistry of alpha-secretase
in protecting our brains from Alzheimer's disease, biochemical
researchers at Germany's Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz were
able to determine more about what function the enzyme plays.
Implications could lead to more effective treatments (and possibly prevention).
Alpha-secretase had already been determined to play a protective role against the formation of plaques in the brain that lead to memory loss and poor learning capacity, symptomatic of Alzheimer's disease. Likewise, when beta-secretase is active, biochemical and behavioral deterioration consistent with Alzheimer's occurs.
Below, the beta-secretase is in red on the left portion (Alzheimer's progression) of the image, and the alpha-secretase is in green on the right.
'You could say that alpha-secretase is the good enzyme and that
beta-secretase is the bad enzyme," team leader Professor Falk Fahrenholz commented.
More information was needed about how the alpha-secretase enzyme plays its protective role. Because alpha-secretase performs several cellular and intercellular roles, not only enzymatic, the need was to figure out which of this good enzyme's very complicated role was doing the protecting. Professor Fahrenholz and his team were able to establish that it is the enzymatic activity of alpha-secretase alone that protects learning ability and memory.
With this knowledge, the team believes that the starting place for treatment (and prevention?) is the activation of the good enzyme, or the increase in its concentration in the brain.
This study is published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Science Centric Image Credit: National Institute on Aging
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