The fight against Alzheimer’s is a harsh and rugged one, and despite numerous advancements, there still isn’t a definitive cure for the disease around – or a fail proof way to detect it in the early stages.. Still, if you can’t defeat it, it’s still better to slow it down a little, and that’s exactly what researchers from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) had in mind. They found that increasing the most abundant brain peptidase in mammals significantly slows down the accumulation of tau proteins that are toxic to nerve cells and can cause or amplify Alzheimer’s, as well as other forms of dementia.
The study, published in Human Molecular Genetics showed that the increase of these peptidase have no negative side effects, but does remove tau proteins in the neurons.
“Our research demonstrated that increasing the brain enzyme known as PSA/NPEPPS can effectively block the accumulation of tau protein that is toxic to nerve cells and slow down the progression of neural degeneration without unwanted side effects,” said Stanislav L. Karsten, PhD, the corresponding author for the study and a principal investigator at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed).
“These findings suggest that increasing this naturally occurring brain peptidase, PSA/NPEPPS, may be a feasible therapeutic approach to eliminate the accumulation of unwanted toxic proteins, such as tau, that cause the neural degeneration associated with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”
Alzheimer’s disease affects 2-4 million people in America only, but it is believed that this number will increase dramatically as popullation continues to age.
Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA for short) is a thermoplastic and transparent plastic that’s called acrylic glass for short. In the not so distant future it could be made from natural products such as sugars, alcohols or fatty acids. This process is much more environmentally friendly than the process used now.
PMMA is manufactured by polymerising methyl methacrylate (MMA). However, scientists at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) a bacterial strain that produces an enzyme which could be used for the biotechnical process of producing MMA, or at least a precursor of it.
Going a bit into technicalities, this enzyme makes it possible to turn a (linear) C4 carbon structure into a branched one (where a substituent is replaced by a covalently bonded chain of that polymer). This types of compounds are the precursors of MMA.
The chemical industry worldwide has been searching for a better way of producing them for quite a while now, so this development could have a significant impact, as this type of mutase (in which an enzyme “jumps” from a functional group from one position to another to create of molecule) solves many of those problems.
In what is a great leap for science, scientists from UCLA and the University of Washington have succeeded in creating “designer enzymes,” a major milestone in computational chemistry and protein engineering. The two groups were led by UCLA’s chemistry professor Kendall Houk and Washington’s biochemist David Baker.
Designer enzymes will have applications for defense against biological warfare, by deactivating pathogenic biological agents, and for creating more effective medications, according to Houk. The results seem very promising and scientists are pleased.
“The design of new enzymes for reactions not normally catalyzed in nature is finally feasible,” Houk said. “The goal of our research is to use computational methods to design the arrangement of groups inside a protein to cause any desired reaction to occur.”
“Enzymes are such potent catalysts; we want to harness that catalytic ability,” said research co-author Jason DeChancie, an advanced UCLA chemistry graduate student working with Houk’s group. “We want to design enzymes for reactions that naturally occurring enzymes don’t do. There are limits on the reactions that natural enzymes carry out, compared with what we can dream up that enzymes can potentially do.”
Combining chemistry, mathematics and physics is no kid’s play but it’s the result of years and years of hard work and colaborations from many scientists from many fields. In the paper they’ve published in Nature they reported that they have successfully created designer enzymes for a chemical reaction known as the Kemp elimination, a non-natural chemical transformation in which hydrogen is pulled off a carbon atom.