Antibody may help fight Alzheimer's

Leave it to engineers to come up with a potentially novel solution to fight Alzheimer's disease.

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute led by Peter Tessier, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, have designed antibodies that neutralize the amyloid protein that leads to Alzheimer's disease. Yes, this is early stage research, and the finding is a long road from the lab to treatment in people. Also, RPI points out that brain tissue is very well protected, and a hard place in which to successfully deliver drug treatments.

But the researchers believe that their finding could help to better understand how the disease operates, and also lead to antibody-based drugs to fight it, and other conditions like Parkinson's disease.

"By binding to specific portions of the toxic protein, we could test hypotheses about how to prevent or reverse cellular toxicity linked to Alzheimer's disease," Tessier said in a release announcing the finding.

Their research, published in the Dec. 5 early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, started with development of an antibody design process. Antibodies are complex constructions of Y-shaped proteins topped with smaller peptide loops. Only a specific combination of those loops binds to the Alzheimer's protein, helping the immune system to destroy it, the researchers note. Tessier and his team modeled their approach on the same process that leads to amyloid protein sticking together in toxic clumps in the brain, leading to Alzheimer's. Their antibodies latched onto the harmful cells, avoiding healthy ones.

- here's the release

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