The primary culprits in Alzheimer’s disease are toxic protein particles composed of many copies of the Alzheimer’s protein. Researchers are actively investigating new therapeutic strategies for treating Alzheimer’s disease by preventing formation of such toxic protein particles that are lethal to brain cells. While straightforward in theory, this approach has proven extremely difficult to achieve in practice.
A promising new approach is to use large protein molecules called antibodies to prevent formation of toxic Alzheimer’s particles. Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to combat infection and disease. They are comprised of a large Y-shaped protein topped with small peptide loops, which are used to bind to harmful invaders in the body (e.g., viruses or bacteria). Once an antibody is bound to its target, the immune system sends cells to destroy the complex. Finding the right antibody can determine the difference between death and recovery. Designing antibodies to combat specific ailments is an incredibly difficult endeavor, but researchers at Rensselaer have created several antibodies that target the Alzheimer’s protein.
In this new study, the researchers are evaluating the ability of these novel antibodies to recognize toxic particles that form in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as prevent memory loss in rodent models of Alzheimer’s disease. The long-term goals of this research are to generate improved diagnostic and therapeutic antibodies for detecting and treating Alzheimer’s disease.