Modulating a protein in the brain could help control Alzheimer's disease, a new study has said.
The study by Temple University's School of Medicine has revealed that a protein called 5-lipoxygenase has been found to play a regulatory role in the formation of the amyloid beta in the brain, the major component of plaques implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers also found that inhibitors of this protein currently used to control asthma could possibly be used to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease.
According to Domenico Pratico, an associate professor of pharmacology in Temple's School of Medicine and the study's lead researcher, the 5-Lipoxygenase enzyme is found in abundance mainly in the region of the brain, the hippocampus, involved in memory.
"What we found was 5-lipoxygenase regulates and controls the amount of total amyloid beta produced in the brain. With aging, the more 5-lipoxygenase you have the more amyloid beta you're going to produce. This will translate into a higher risk to develop full Alzheimer's," said Praticr.
A previous study by Praticr, in which researchers crossed a mouse model of Alzheimer's with a mouse that did not genetically feature 5-lipoxygenase, demonstrated that a lack of this enzyme protein alone can reduce the amount of disease in the brain by up to half.
Praticr said that the key in the process was 5-lipoxygenase's direct control over the gamma secretase, the only source of amyloid beta in the brain.
"If you can modulate this enzyme easily, then you can control the amount of total amyloid beta that is produced by the gamma secretase in the brain, thus controlling the amount of Alzheimer's disease," he said.
He said that there are several FDA-approved 5-lipoxygenase inhibitors currently being used for the treatment of asthma, and that the Temple researchers tested some of these inhibitors in the lab against the production of amyloid beat with initial positive results.
"These drugs are already on the market, they're inexpensive and, most importantly, they are already FDA-approved, so you wouldn't need to go through an intense drug discovery process. So you could quickly begin a clinical trial to determine if there is a new application for an old drug against a disease where there is currently nothing," he noted.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Annals of Neurology.