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Progress toward a more targeted treatment of Alzheimer's disease

Leuven, Belgium - Leuven Scientists from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected with the Catholic University of Leuven have shed a little more light on Alzheimer's disease. They've gone deeply into the operation of γ-secretase, a crucial factor in the origin of the disease. Their research has revealed that the action of γ-secretase is not homogeneous - as previously assumed - but quite differentiated. This discovery opens up perspectives for new medicines that will have fewer undesired side effects than current medicines do.

Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative disease that gradually and progressively destroys brain cells, affects between 50% and 70% of all cases of dementia and is therefore the major form of dementia. About 100,000 people suffer from this disease in Belgium. The damage caused to memory and mental functioning makes it one of today's most frightening syndromes. In particular, the first realization of the loss of any sense of reality is extremely difficult to accept. So, science continues to search feverishly for ways to treat the disease.

The role of γ-secretase
Alzheimer's disease involves a kind of plaque that forms in the brain cells. Several years ago, Bart De Strooper and other researchers deciphered the process by which the plaques originate. A major role in this process is played by γ-secretase, an enzyme that cuts proteins in a particular place. Sometimes the γ-secretase cleavage goes wrong, causing the creation of a by-product that sticks together and precipitates - thus forming the plaque. In their quest for new medicines, scientists are investigating this key role of ?-secretase to try to find substances that are able to block the formation of plaques. A thorough understanding of γ-secretase is therefore critical.

Diverse tissue-specific activity
γ-secretase is divided into several entitie
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
sooike.stoops@vib.be
32-9-244-6611
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology
1-Feb-2005


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