U team pinpoints potential target for Alzheimer’s treatments

Medical School researchers have identified a potential target for treating Alzheimer’s disease. The study provides insight into what may be causing the disease and one day could help find an effective treatment.

Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of the University’s N. Bud Grossman Center for Memory Research and Care and a professor of neurology, and her team homed in on the protein tau as the likely culprit about 12 years ago. Although it’s normally part of a healthy body, tau changes and clumps together irregularly in people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

In the new mouse study, the team looked for a mechanism that could be affecting tau and found that caspase-2, a naturally occurring enzyme, may be to blame. The researchers also discovered that tau accumulates in neurons when caspase-2 “cuts” healthy tau at a particular point.

By reducing levels of the enzyme or preventing it from cutting tau entirely, Ashe believes it could be possible to recover memory deficits or even restore cognition. “Next, we hope to collaborate with our colleagues in drug development to translate this toward care,” she says.

Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Thomas M. Grossman Family Charitable Trust, Beverly N. Grossman, and Karin L. Moe. 

Published on March 28, 2017