In a new study, a group of scientists from MIT discovered a way to reverse neurodegeneration and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by interfering with an enzyme that is typically overactive in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
The scientists treated mice with a peptide that blocks the hyperactive version of an enzyme called CDK5, and found that the mice had dramatic reductions in neurodegeneration and DNA damage in the brain.
The mice also showed improvements in their ability to perform tasks such as learning to navigate a water maze.
The researchers hope that the peptide could eventually be used as a treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that have CDK5 overactivation.
The peptide is similar in size to other peptide drugs that are used in clinical applications and does not interfere with CDK1, an essential enzyme that is structurally similar to CDK5.
CDK5 plays an important role in the development of the central nervous system and helps to regulate synaptic function.
In Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, a smaller protein called P25 binds to CDK5 and makes the enzyme more active in cells.
P25 also allows CDK5 to phosphorylate molecules other than its usual targets, including the Tau protein, which leads to the formation of the neurofibrillary tangles that are a characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s disease.
In previous work, the MIT team showed that transgenic mice engineered to express P25 develop severe neurodegeneration.
The scientists decided to use a peptide to target P25, rather than a small molecule.
They designed their peptide with a sequence identical to that of a segment of CDK5 known as the T loop, which is a structure critical to the binding of CDK5 to P25.
The entire peptide is only 12 amino acids long, which is slightly longer than most existing peptide drugs.
The scientists found that the peptide treatment produced dramatic improvements in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, which has a mutant form of the Tau protein that leads to neurofibrillary tangles.
The mice showed reductions in both Tau pathologies and neuron loss. Along with those effects in the brain, the researchers also observed behavioral improvements.
Mice treated with the peptide performed much better in a task that required learning to navigate a water maze than mice that were treated with a control peptide.
In conclusion, the scientists found that interfering with the hyperactive version of CDK5 can reverse neurodegeneration and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
With further testing, the peptide used in this study could potentially be used as a treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that have CDK5 overactivation.
How to treat Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex condition and there is currently no known cure.
However, there are several treatments and management strategies that can help slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Medications: There are several medications available that can help improve symptoms and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. These medications include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.
Lifestyle changes: Making certain lifestyle changes can help improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This includes engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
Cognitive training: Certain cognitive training exercises, such as memory training and problem-solving tasks, may help improve cognitive function and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Supportive care: Supportive care can help improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease. This may include counseling, support groups, and caregiver support.
Clinical trials: Participating in clinical trials can help advance research and treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials test new treatments and therapies to determine their effectiveness and safety.
It’s important to note that each person with Alzheimer’s disease may require a different treatment plan, and treatment may need to be adjusted over time as the disease progresses.
It’s also important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan for the individual.
If you care about brain health, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and nutrients in meat, fish and beans may be key to preventing Alzheimer’s.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.
The study was conducted by Ping-Chieh Pao et al and published in PNAS.
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