UCLA study is first to use “structural” approach in hunt for amyloid-inhibiting agents.
UCLA chemists and molecular biologists have for the first time used a “structure-based” approach to drug design to identify compounds with the potential to delay or treat Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other degenerative disorders.
All of these diseases are marked by harmful, elongated, rope-like structures known as amyloid fibrils, linked protein molecules that form in the brains of patients.
Structure-based drug design, in which the physical structure of a targeted protein is used to help identify compounds that will interact with it, has already been used to generate therapeutic agents for a number of infectious and metabolic diseases.
The UCLA researchers, led by David Eisenberg, director of the UCLA–Department of Energy Institute of Genomics and Proteomics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, report the first application of this technique in the search for molecular compounds that bind to and inhibit the activity of the amyloid-beta protein responsible for forming dangerous plaques in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.
In addition to Eisenberg, who is also a professor of chemistry, biochemistry and biological chemistry and a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute, the team included lead author Lin Jiang, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in Eisenberg’s laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, and other UCLA faculty.
The research was published July 16 in eLife, a new open-access science journal backed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust.