Pill to prevent Alzheimer's disease in the offing

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New York, Oct 8 (IANS) A pill that prevents the accumulation of toxic molecules in the brain and can help prevent or delay Alzheimer's, can be the next target in the fight against the neurocognitive disease, according to US scientists.

The findings showed the need to lower the level of tau -- a protein involved in the accumulation of toxic molecules that increases the vulnerability of the brain to develop Alzheimer's.

"Tau is one of those proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease and dementia. So maybe if we can find drugs that can keep tau at levels that are not toxic for the brain, then we would be able to prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer's," said Huda Zoghbi, Professor at the Baylor University in Texas.

Cells control the amount of their proteins with other proteins called enzymes. To find which enzymes affect tau accumulation, the scientists systematically inhibited enzymes called kinases.

They inhibited about 600 kinases one by one and found one, called Nuak1, whose inhibition resulted in reduced levels of tau.

Further, the team screened the enzymes in cultured human cells, the laboratory fruit fly, and in a mouse model.

While inhibiting enzyme Nuak1 consistently resulted in lower levels of tau in both human cells and fruit flies, in the mouse model it improved the behaviour of the mice and prevented brain degeneration, the results showed.

"The findings confirmed that Nuak1 is a reliable potential target for drugs to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's. "The next step is to develop drugs that will inhibit Nuak1 in the hope that one day we would be able to lower tau levels with low toxicity in individuals at risk for dementia due to tau accumulation," Zoghbi stated in a paper published in Cell Press journal Neuron.

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