Pharma

‘Molecular tweezers:’ A potential new strategy for fending off Alzheimer’s?

ID-10014526Rather than trying to break up clumps of proteins that characterize many brain diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, Gal Bitan and his team are trying to stop them from binding in the first place using what they call molecular tweezers.

Bitan, an associate professor of neurology at UCLA, is working with a research team that includes 20 collaborators around the world to see if the tweezers they’ve been working on in the lab could be turned into a drug that would prevent or cure degenerative diseases.

In the case of Alzheimer’s, the proteins that build up and destroy nerve cells are amyloid beta and tau. As described by UCLA, the molecular tweezers have a horseshoe shape and wrap around chains of lysine, a basic amino acid within most proteins, to prevent the proteins from joining together.

The team says the compounds have demonstrated improvement in seven different disease models, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, with no known side effects.

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So far, their research has been funded by foundation and government grants supporting Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS research. But now they’ve turned to Indiegogo in search of $2 million to advance toward clinical trials.

The concept of molecular tweezers emerged from research in Germany in the 1990s. Bitan’s lab began working with them in 2005, and first published the discovery that they seemed to block beta-amyloid and other proteins from becoming toxic, in 2011.

[Image credit: renjith krishnan]

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