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A natural dye obtained from lichens may combat Alzheimer's disease
Date:12/2/2011

ar properties. They identified the substance O4, a blue dye, which is structurally very similar to one of the 14 molecules. Moreover, they showed that O4 stimulates the formation of large, non-toxic protein plaques from small toxic protein assemblies.

New Mechanism

A few years ago Professor Wanker and his colleagues discovered that EGCG (Epigallocatechin-3-gallate), a natural chemical compound found in green tea, renders toxic protein assemblies non-toxic. With orcein and O4 the researchers have now found another mechanism to eliminate small toxic protein aggregates. However, instead of remodeling protein plaques, the dyes reduce the abundance of small, toxic precursor protein assemblies by accelerating the formation of large plaques, as the researchers could now show in their laboratory.

"This is a new mechanism," Professor Wanker explained. "Up to now it has been considered to be very difficult to stop the formation of small toxic protein assemblies. If our hypothesis is correct that the small aggregates, which are precursors of plaques, indeed cause neuronal death, with O4 we would have a new mechanism to attack the disease."

The synthetic dye methylene blue is currently being tested in clinical trials. This dye also seems to stimulate the formation of large plaques in a way similar to O4. Other therapeutic approaches tested in clinical trials which aim at eliminating small precursor aggregates have so far not led to a significant improvement of disease symptoms.

However, it still remains to be seen whether the blue dye O4 can also be effective against small amounts of misfolded proteins in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and whether the accelerated formation of larger plaques can indeed reduce the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in humans. Further studies will be necessary to address the question whether the accelerated formation of large plaques can be a therapeutic approach. "We hope that our
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Contact: Barbara Bachtler
bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
49-309-406-3896
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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