Investigator takes a new approach on Alzheimer's

A researcher at the University of Oklahoma has nabbed a $75,000 grant to fund new work on the uses of proteases in attacking plaque associated with Alzheimer's. While pharma companies like Eli Lilly have been pursuing expensive clinical studies of new drugs that target beta amyloid, Peter J. Heinzelman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Mechanical Engineering, believes that proteases can be a better weapon to fight the disease.

"Digestive enzymes are promiscuous," says Heinzelman. "We can create catalytic proteases that attack the beta-amyloid plaque that cause neurons in the brain to die. Current therapies use amyloid-binding antibodies that are created by the body or injected to get rid of the plaque, but these antibodies used to attack the problematic Abeta molecules can only bind one time and clear one Abeta molecule, then they are done."

The investigator's approach will depend heavily on a better drug delivery technology. Heinzelman is linking proteases with "ferrying" antibodies that can transport proteases through the blood/brain barrier so that they can target brain tissue. And he is developing a library of biopharmaceutical proteases for public use.

- here's the University of Oklahoma release