Tweaking Gene Might Treat Alzheimer's

In the lab, the strategy boosted levels of a toxin-removing protein

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MONDAY, Aug. 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Boosting the expression a particular gene might improve blood flow in the brain, pointing to a potential treatment strategy against Alzheimer's disease, researchers report.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found expression of the MEOX2 gene to be low in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Reporting in the Aug. 14 online edition of Nature Medicine, the team found that restoring expression levels of this gene in human brain cells stimulated formation of new blood vessels. They also found this revived expression boosted the level of a protein that removes amyloid beta peptide -- the toxin the builds up in the brain tissue of Alzheimer's patients.

In other research conducted in mice, the team deleted one copy of the MEOX2 gene. This led to a reduced ability for blood vessel growth in the rodents' brains, along with impaired clearance of amyloid beta.

"This is a new pathway for the study and treatment of Alzheimer's disease," research team leader Dr. Berislav Zlokovic, a professor in the department of neurosurgery and director of the Frank P. Smith Laboratories for Neuroscience and Neurosurgical Research, said in a prepared statement. "This gene could be a therapeutic agent. If we can stop this cycle, we could slow or stop the progression of the neuronal component of this disease."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, Aug.14, 2005

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