"This is proof of principle," Simons said. "The idea would be to get it into the blood in humans and then over the blood-brain barrier into the brain. There are many ways for molecules to get into the brain."
The blood-brain barrier is a network of tightly packed cells that prevents most molecules from entering the brain.
William J. Netzer, an Alzheimer's researcher at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation at Rockefeller University in New York City, called the new study "a profoundly interesting line of research."
"It is not implausible that one might improve the effectiveness of a drug by coaxing it to go into a region where the enzymes it blocks exist," Netzer said.
But medical use of such a product can raise questions, he said. "When you put an inhibitor into a living being, the chemical you put in can be modified in the body. Where a compound goes into a cell is a complicated issue when you put it into a human being," he added.
Dr. James Galvin, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, called the German research "a novel idea."
If the concept works, it would solve a puzzle about how to best target the enzyme, Galvin said. And it is a concept with broader medical possibilities, he said.
"You can potentially inhibit other enzymes where cleavage occurs within membranes," he said.
Learn more about Alzheimer's disease from the U.S. Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Kai Simons, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cell biology, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany; William J. Netzer, Ph.D., research associate, Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation, Roc
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