Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good News But Faster Please As Glenn Reynolds Says

Genentech Finds Alzheimer’s “Death Receptor” Target for Drugs

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- A protein that trims unneeded neurons in early brain development takes on a more menacing function later in life as a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease, Genentech Inc. researchers have discovered.

The particle, dubbed “death receptor 6,” plays a previously unknown role in sparking mass cell death in Alzheimer’s disease, said Marc Tessier-Lavigne, executive vice president of research drug discovery at the South San Francisco, California-based biotechnology company. DR6 does this by binding to a fragment, called N-APP, of amyloid precursor protein, a known bad actor in the brain degeneration of Alzheimer’s.

The interaction of the death receptor with N-APP may play an innocent role in a developing brain by pruning neurons until there is just enough for normal brain function, said Tessier- Lavigne. In Alzheimer’s disease, this process gets hijacked and triggers runaway cell suicide that destroys memory and cognition. The discovery may offer new targets for drug development to slow degenerative brain diseases, he said.

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