In the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, A-beta proteins stick together to form plaques that are at least associated with, and may actually precipitate the clinical syndrome.
A-beta proteins are formed when enzymes known as secretases digest a larger protein known as amyloid precursor protein.
Knowing this, drug designers have tried to find something that inhibits the secretases, but so far the search has been fruitless.
Malcolm Leissring and a team at Mayo Clinic, Florida have taken a different approach. They searched for compounds that hasten the destruction A-beta proteins, and they may have hit paydirt.
In a report published in PLoS ONE, the scientists used in vitro procedures to isolate 2 chemicals that stimulate insulin-degrading enzyme or IDE, which chews up A-beta proteins faster than Owen and Jen’s white Lab Marley could dismantle a sofa.
Almost immediately after the chemicals were added to IDE, more than 99 percent of the A-beta was destroyed.
“This study describes the first examples of synthetic small-molecule activators of IDE, showing that activation of this enzyme is achievable,” Leissring told BurrillReport.
“If it is possible to generate drugs for human use that stimulate the activity of IDE, these agents might offer therapeutic benefit for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.”
IDE is shaped like a clamshell that opens and shuts, like Pac-Man.
When IDE is open, A-beta fits snugly inside. The protease then closes like a Venus-fly trap and digests the A-beta.
IDE’s primary role is to digest excess insulin in the body, so small molecule activators like the ones uncovered by Leissring’s group might prove to be useful in managing diabetes one day as well.
The compounds are years away from human testing.