Research Highlight

Short peptides, electric field may slow onset of Alzheimer’s disease

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.91 Published online 1 June 2020

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati have designed short peptides that can prevent the formation of abnormal protein clumps in the brain1, 2. Such protein clumps destroy neurons, causing brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.  

The researchers have also shown that an externally applied low-voltage electric field could arrest the formation of such disease-causing clumps3.

They say such strategies might help reduce symptoms such as short-term memory losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, beta amyloid and tau proteins form toxic protein clumps that trigger the death of neurons. Most of the existing therapies for this disorder have harmful side effects such as bleeding and other complications.

To find safer alternatives, the scientists prepared a series of short peptides. They then studied the efficiency of these peptides in halting the assembly of target proteins that can assemble and form aggregations, or clumps, such as beta amyloid and tau proteins.

The researchers, led by Vibin Ramakrishnan, found that the peptides retarded the aggregation of the target proteins. The peptide-treated proteins were found to increase the viability of specific brain neurons. This suggests that the peptide treatment lowered the toxicity of the proteins. 

The peptides, the researchers say, could be tested for their potential to prevent assembly of both beta amyloid and tau proteins.

In a separate study, a team led by Harshal Nemade revealed that exposure to an electric field disrupted the aggregation of the proteins. This could slow the degeneration of nerve cells by 35 per cent. Such a treatment, they say, could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s for 10 years.


References

1. Pandey, G. et al. Modulation of tau protein aggregation using Trojan’ sequences. BBA. Gen. Sub. 1864, 129569 (2020)

2. Pandey, G. et al. Modulating Aβ fibrillogenesis with Trojan’ peptides. Neuropeptides. 81, 102030 (2020)

3. Saikia, J. et al. Electric field disruption of amyloid aggregation: potential noninvasive therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. ACS. Chem. Neurosci. 10, 2250-2262 (2019)