New tool sweeps away Alzheimer's plaque from brain

This plaque is the aggregation of protein-like bits known as amyloid-beta peptides that accumulate in the brain. It can cause cell death and devastating symptoms of memory loss in Alzheimer's, an incurable disease, reports the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The mechanisms creating the plaque are not entirely understood, but copper and zinc ions are suspected to be involved.

Assistant professor Hee Lim, from the University of Michigan, has developed the dual-purpose molecular tool with her team.  The tool both grabs metal ions and interacts with amyloid-beta, according to a Michigan statement.

The researchers demonstrated that the tool not only disrupted copper-induced plaque formation, but also broke up existing clumps.

Building upon that first generation of compounds, Lim and lab members Jung-Suk Choi and Joseph Braymer now report a second generation of compounds that are more stable in biological environments.

"We found that our compound is capable of disassembling the misfolded amyloid clumps to form smaller amyloid pieces, which might be 'cleansed' from the brain more easily, demonstrating a therapeutic application of our compound," said Lim.

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