Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes: Anti-plaque news

Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes have one thing in common: toxic protein aggregates cause cells to die. Scientists have now succeeded in developing an inhibitor that could prevent this.

In Alzheimer’s dementia, the death of brain cells is accompanied by the formation of harmful protein aggregates and deposits – amyloid plaques. Similar processes also play an important role in type 2 diabetes. However, both diseases are not yet curable and the number of affected is increasing. There is therefore a great need for new therapeutic approaches.

Amyloid protein aggregates, which are partly responsible for cell death, offer a promising starting point for this: A research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now succeeded in developing synthetic peptides that were able to inhibit the formation of harmful protein aggregates in experimental models.

Increased risk of dual disease

Previous research has already shown that certain interactions between the proteins of the two diseases can dramatically accelerate their amyloid formation. These findings could potentially explain why people with one of the two diseases may be at increased risk of the other. The team led by prof. Aphrodite Kapurniotuova therefore designed synthetic peptides to act as possible inhibitors of amyloid formation in both diseases.

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“These peptides actually bind the amyloid-forming proteins associated with both diseases and not only prevent them from forming harmful amyloid aggregates, but also prevent them from interacting with each other,” explains Professor Kapurniotou. “Amazingly, the mixed aggregates formed by inhibitor-protein binding look very similar to harmful amyloids, but are harmless to cells.” Moreover, these mixed proteins are better absorbed by scavenger cells of the immune system than harmful amyloid aggregates,” the scientist continues.

Purpose: Medical application

Given the suspected link between Alzheimer’s dementia and type 2 diabetes, Kapurniot believes that the proposed peptides are valuable candidates for drug development that could be used to treat both diseases. TUM has already applied for a patent for the designed peptides. Further research is now awaited to move the results from experimental models to medical application.

This text is based on a press release from the Technical University of Munich. The original publication can be found here.

Image credit: David Clode, unsplash.

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