New Protein Could Provide Treatment for Alzheimer's, Other Diseases

Researchers have manufactured a peptide aimed to block modified proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, and other conditions.

University of Washington (UW) researchers have manufactured a peptide aimed to block modified proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other conditions.

The discovery is intended to combat toxic amyloid proteins, which play a factor in over 40 diseases, most of which do not have a cure. A small modification in an amyloid protein deems it toxic, which explains why these diseases are so prevalent.

“If you can truly catch and neutralize the toxic version of these proteins, then you hopefully never get any further damage in the body,” senior author Valerie Daggett, a UW professor of bioengineering, said in a statement. “What’s critical with this and what has never been done before is that a single peptide sequence will work against the toxic versions of a number of different amyloid proteins and peptides, regardless of their amino acid sequence or the normal 3D structures.”

In the study, published in eLife Sciences, the researchers constructed α-sheet (alpha sheet) peptides, which assist amyloid proteins. The alpha sheet peptides bind onto amyloid proteins as they transition to toxic states and subsequently neutralizes them. As a result, amyloid fibrils, or plaques, aren’t formed.

“The designs display characteristic spectroscopic signatures distinguishing them from conventional secondary structures, supporting alpha sheet as a structure involved in the toxic oligomer stage of amyloid formation and paving the way for novel therapeutics and diagnostics,” the authors wrote.

With additional manipulation, these sheets can attach to proteins associated with certain diseases, which could prove useful for therapeutic purposes.

“Having demonstrated that the alpha sheet structure may constitute a broad-based inhibitor of amyloidosis, our alpha sheet designs introduce a novel class of amyloid inhibitors that target the toxic soluble oligomeric state of different amyloidogenic peptides and proteins,” the investigators noted.

Currently, one patient is on the compound, and the researchers are collaborating with UW’s Center for Commercialization to patent an entire class of related compounds.