Preventing Memory Problems in Alzheimer's

A promising study in mice: researchers "have discovered a new strategy to prevent memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Humans with AD and mice genetically engineered to simulate the disease have abnormally low levels of an enzyme called EphB2 in memory centers of the brain. Improving EphB2 levels in such mice by gene therapy completely fixed their memory problems. ... EphB2 [acts] as both a receptor and an enzyme. We thought it might be involved in memory problems of AD because it is a master regulator of neurotransmission and its brain levels are decreased in the disease. ... To determine if low EphB2 levels actually contribute to the development of memory problems, the investigators used gene therapy to experimentally alter EphB2 levels in memory centers of mice. Reducing EphB2 levels in normal healthy mice disrupted neurotransmission and gave them memory problems similar to those seen in AD. ... Increasing EphB2 levels in neurons of mice engineered to produce high levels of human amyloid proteins in the brain prevented their neurotransmission deficits, memory problems and behavioral abnormalities. The scientists also discovered that amyloid proteins directly bind to EphB2 and cause its degradation, which helps explain why EphB2 levels are reduced in AD and related mouse models. ... Based on our results, we think that blocking amyloid proteins from binding to EphB2 and enhancing EphB2 levels or functions with drugs might be of benefit in AD."

Link: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-11/gi-gtp112210.php

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