Small proteins role in memory deficits investigated
Protein clumps and tangles have long been suspected as the cause of Alzheimer's disease. Attention has recently focused on small proteins known as ADDLs which bind themselves to neurons. It is the act of binding that is thought to disrupt normal electrical flow and result in memory deficits.
Conventional thinking suggests that clumps of sticky insoluble proteins eventually damage neurons and eventually this leads to dementia. However, nearly every older person has some of these clumps, known as amyloid plaques, but only a few people develop Alzheimer's. Another suspect has always been the presence of tau protein tangles. These tangles form inside the neuron and coincide with the collapse of the cell body. Although tau tangles are better associated with the onset of Alzheimer's, they tend to appear later, which suggests they may be a consequence of the disease rather than a cause.
Researchers Grant Krafft and William Klein discovered huge quantities of ADDLs in the post-mortem brains of Alzheimer's sufferers. By contrast, relatively few ADDLs have been found in the brains of people without Alzheimer's. Further support to the theory comes from experiments with mice in where it was discovered that the neurons of mice function normally once ADDLs were removed.
ADDL research is being taken very seriously by the pharmaceutical company Merck. Merck has stumped up 48 million dollars for research with the promise of a further 48 million should a vaccine be marketed. Incentives then for all concerned.