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

5:52 am by | 0 Comments

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.


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]

Copyright 2015 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
More posts by Author