Researchers uncover natural defence mechanism against toxic protein build-up

From Care and cure magazine - Summer 2015, read about a natural defence mechanism in the brain that may help fight Alzheimer's disease.

A natural defence mechanism in the brain that may help to protect against a crucial step in the development of Alzheimer's disease has been uncovered by researchers in Cambridge, in collaboration with colleagues in Sweden and Estonia.

The researchers were investigating a process called oligomerisation where the hallmark Alzheimer's protein, amyloid, forms clumps that are toxic to nerve cells. In Alzheimer's disease, the amyloid protein gathers into small groups called oligomers, which then group further into large, sticky clumps known as plaques. Some scientists believe that it is oligomers that are responsible for the toxic effects of amyloid protein in Alzheimer's disease. 

Previous findings have indicated that the plaques can speed up the production of amyloid oligomers, creating a feedback loop of ever more toxic protein. The scientists discovered that a protein called BRICHOS, which is naturally found in the body, can prevent the plaques from creating these oligomers. This could help to understand how the amyloid clumps function in Alzheimer's disease and shows a possible way in which they could be stopped. 

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, said:

'This study reveals a new way in which our brain's natural defences guard against the build-up of amyloid protein which clumps together in Alzheimer's disease. While most current research attempts to break up these clumps or reduce their impact on brain cells, this new discovery identifies a molecule that reduces the rapid accumulation of the toxic clumps.

'This revelation is exciting as it gives scientists a whole new way of looking at the problem, opening the doors to possible new treatments.'