A protein called BAG2 may offer more clarity about Alzheimer's disease and its management,say scientists at UC Santa Barbara.
In a study paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers have revealed that they will soon begin experiments to find out how these proteins work with mice.
The scientists have also described important activities of BAG2 in cleaning up brain cells in the paper.
The protein tau is normally found in brain cells, but it has yet to be determined why it clumps into tangles in people with Alzheimer's disease.
Senior author Kenneth S. Kosik, co-director of UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute, and Harriman Chair in Neuroscience, have been involved in the study of neurons that develop neurofibrillary tangles, one of the hallmarks of the disease, since he was a postdoctoral fellow.
''Early on in my career, we were one of several labs to discover that tau was in the neurofibrillary tangles,'' said Kosik.
The researchers have revealed that they recently started studying BAG2 to understand how it might be involved in the removal of tangled tau.
''It turns out that when you put this protein into the cell, it clears away the damaged tau very nicely,'' said Kosik.
The team have thus far noticed that BAG2 does not clear away all the tau. It instead goes for the damaged tau protein and removes it, they add.
''All cells including neurons have an elaborate, sophisticated, elegant system for disposing of proteins. Proteins have a certain turnover; sometimes they get damaged. The cell has its own trash can called the proteosome, and damaged proteins are deposited there,'' said Kosik.
''We've done this experiment many ways. We've discovered a bit about how BAG2 works. We've turned it on to remove tau. We've turned it off to increase tau. We've really done a lot of manipulations using cell culture. So BAG2 is a new player, a new protein that may be a good target for study in the research of Alzheimer's disease.
''There is nothing about a drug or a treatment in any of these findings; however, the first step in fighting any illness is finding what you want to target the drug to. This is a protein that is involved in neurofibrillary tangles, so now we have a new target for drug discovery. This is not a drug or a treatment, just a new target. The new target is BAG2.'' Kosik is looking forward to studying BAG2 in mice,'' added Kosik.
The researcher says that calls contain all these proteins, but they can go awry. Their levels can be off, or they may malfunction in another way. The same normal protein can begin to malfunction.
''It may be that BAG2 is not doing its job right; it may be that BAG2 is overwhelmed, because sometimes tau is building up, and there is not enough BAG2 there. We cannot conclude from this that BAG2 is the fundamental problem in the disease state. It is only a possible target that can help us find our way out of the disease,'' said Kosik.