"We've now shown that Pin1 [prolyl isomerase] plays a pivotal role in protecting against age-dependent neurodegeneration," says BIDMC cell biologist Kun Ping Lu, M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study's senior author. "This makes a convincing case that this enzyme should be taken into consideration in future studies of Alzheimer's disease."
"This is an exciting advance in our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases," adds Tony Hunter, Ph.D., a collaborator on the study from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. "When we first began studying Pin1 we knew that all animal cells had this enzyme and that it was likely to be important, but we had no idea that it would turn out to play a critical role in keeping neurons healthy in the brain."
The most common cause of dementia in older people, Alzheimer's disease affects an estimated 4 million individuals in the U.S., a number that is expected to increase significantly in coming years as the baby boomer generation ages. Ever since autopsies of Alzheimer's patients first uncovered bunches of "tangles" in the brain's neurons, investigators have studied the possibility that the overexpression of a gene was responsible for this turn of events. This new research represents the first genetic evidence that age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases develop, instead,
Contact: Bonnie Prescott
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center