Detecting Alzheimer’s Toxic Proteins

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Researchers have not had an accurate or easy way to detect amyloid oligomers, the protein accumulations smaller than the commonly known plaques – until now
Researchers have not had an accurate or easy way to detect amyloid oligomers, the protein accumulations smaller than the commonly known plaques – until now

An international team of scientists has designed a novel antibody that can accurately detect the toxic oligomers suspected to cause the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s hoped the breakthrough will lead to improved drug design and clinical testing by offering researchers a new way to measure these protein aggregations.

Research into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has primarily focused on eliminating toxic accumulations of amyloid proteins, known as plaques. Some studies have recently suggested the main neurodegenerative damage associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s may happen at an earlier point, before these amyloid proteins have formed into larger plaques.

The earliest stages of amyloid protein dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease appear to be when the proteins begin misfolding and clumping together. As these misfolding proteins begin clustering they initially form what are called oligomers. And these amyloid oligomers can begin forming more than a decade before larger plaques appear.

“There is an urgent unmet need for quantitative methods to recognize oligomers – which play a major role in Alzheimer’s disease, but are too elusive for standard antibody discovery strategies,” explains Michele Vendruscolo, lead on the new research from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Misfolding Diseases. “While the amyloid hypothesis is a prevalent view, it has not been fully validated in part because amyloid-beta oligomers are so difficult to detect, so there are differing opinions on what causes Alzheimer’s disease.”

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