[ASC-media] Media release: rats may hold Alzheimer's key

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Wed Aug 18 10:03:40 EST 2004


August 18, 2004


Rats do not suffer from Alzheimer's Disease, and a team of researchers in Western Australia believe they may hold the key to defeating the disease. 

"Alzheimer's Disease was identified in 1907," says neuroscientist Professor Ralph Martins of the Sir James McCusker Alzheimer Unit at Edith Cowan University, "but we've really only begun to understand the disease at the molecular level in the past decade.

"Post-mortem examination of Alzheimer's victims has consistently shown unusually large deposits of a protein called beta-amyloid in the brain," he says. "This occurs normally in the healthy brain, but in much smaller quantities, so our research looked for a way to inhibit, but not block, amyloid production in Alzheimer's sufferers."

Beta-amyloid in the brains of rats is remarkably similar to the human form but is not toxic. Using a novel screening approach Professor Martins' team identified three rat molecules from a pool of several million, and since 2003, the team have been investigating these three candidate drugs to determine their efficacy against human beta-amyloid. 

"This is exciting research," says Professor Martins. "We have successfully demonstrated that one of these three molecules - called ANA3 - selectively binds human beta-amyloid and neutralizes its toxic activity."

Professor Martins says that while the research has clearly reached the 'proof of concept' stage, it requires considerable funding to develop this compound for use in the clinic. 

In the mean time, he says, his team have shown that increased production of beta-amyloid in the brain is associated with other risk factors such as increased cholesterol, and that improved diet and exercise can play an important role in the prevention of amyloid build up in the brain.

Professor Martins is one of more than 160 eminent Australian scientists available for interview about their work and science in general during National Science Week. For details visit: www.scienceweek.info.au

To contact Professor Martins: phone 08-9346 6703 or 08-6304 5456

For more information on National Science Week:
Telephone: 02 6205 0281
Mobile: 0407 781 891
Facsimile:02 6207 0072
E-mail:scienceweek at orac.net.au

For more events in National Science Week 2004, please visit:

National Science Week is supported by the Commonwealth Government Department of Education Science and Training (DEST) and the Department of Industry Tourism and Resources (DITR).

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