A research group at Uppsala University has developed a method that could mean improved chances to treat Alzheimer's disease. While treatments available today have marginal effects, the Uppsala researchers' method works in a slightly different way.
When someone develops Alzheimer's disease, a protein known as beta-amyloid begins to clump together, so-called aggregation. The lumps, the aggregates, are toxic to the brain and damage the brain cells.
Today's treatments are based on using antibodies that bind to large clumps and knock them out. The problem is that small lumps can be just as severe, or even more, dangerous. Now, researchers have developed antibodies that can bind even to the small lumps and neutralize them.
This new treatment uses the antibodies to use something called the avidity effect, re-binding, to bind to the lumps. In short, the antibodies use "arms" to capture the lumps. The shorter the arms, the smaller lumps the antibodies can take care of. The researchers have succeeded in developing antibodies that both have shorter arms than current methods and also manage to have stronger binding to the lumps.
"Thanks to the avidity effect, the new antibody format has at least 40 times stronger binding to the lumps. The new type of antibody can also bind to small aggregates with avidity, which we have not seen any other antibody do before and it is fantastic", says Greta Hultqvist, researcher in protein drug design at Uppsala University who has led the study, in a press release.
So far, the method has only been tested on cell cultures. But the results were so promising that the researchers believe that the method can be developed into an effective treatment and even perhaps for other diseases than just Alzheimer's.
"The focus in this study was to bind beta-amyloid aggregates in Alzheimer's disease, but antibody design is general and we believe that it will work on all diseases with aggregates. In a long-term perspective, we hope that the new antibody format can contribute to better treatment methods for other similar diseases such as Parkinson's disease", says Fadi Rofo, doctoral student and the study's first author.
Image: Pixabay/Gerd Altmann