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Another Clue to Alzheimer's Cause

Study finds amyloid beta protein can't cross blood-brain barrier with this disease

MONDAY, Oct. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Research in mice suggests the inability of a certain protein to exit the brain may be a cause of Alzheimer's disease.

The new clue comes from a Saint Louis University study in the October issue of Neuroscience.

The findings about the amyloid beta protein may offer scientists a new approach for treating Alzheimer's.

"It's going to be a big piece to solving the Alzheimer's disease puzzle," lead author Dr. William A. Banks, a professor of geriatrics and pharmacological science, says in a statement.

"If one could reverse the transport-deficit problem, the system should be able to pump the protein out again. The impaired transporter problem may be an easier therapeutic target," Banks says.

Amyloid beta protein is believed to cause Alzheimer's disease. In healthy people, the protein can cross the blood-brain barrier and leave the brain. The blood-brain barrier is a wall of blood vessels that feed the brain and regulate the entry and exit of brain chemicals.

In people with Alzheimer's disease, amyloid beta protein can't pass through that barrier. As more amyloid beta protein accumulates in a person's brain, they become more and more mentally disabled.

Banks says that finding ways to repair the system that transports amyloid beta protein across the blood-brain barrier could lead to treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

"We need to find therapies to bring the transportation system back on line to pump the amyloid beta protein out of the brain," Banks says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University, news release, Oct. 6, 2003
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