Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Serial Killer Blocked
20 October 2013

Serial Killer Blocked

The possibility of developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, the commonest form of dementia, comes closer as we unravel its complex chemistry. We know that a family of substances called amyloid-beta peptides (ABPs) is a serial killer of brain nerve cells, or neurons – whose spindly extremities vulnerable to attack are stained green in this picture of highly magnified brain tissue. While ABPs are difficult to zap with drugs, a much easier target appears to be a protein in the cell membrane, called mGluR5 which has been shown to play a critical role in the ABPs’ attack plan. In an experiment on mice with a similar condition to Alzheimer’s, their memory and learning ability were restored when mGluR5 was chemically blocked. Whether a safe and effective drug can be developed for use on humans remains to be seen but research is now underway.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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