Mayo Clinic identifies enzyme that may combat Alzheimer’s

According to the Mayo Clinic, its researchers at the Florida Mayo Clinic have identified an enzyme that shows promise in combating Alzheimer’s disease. The enzyme — BACE2 — destroys a toxic protein fragment known as beta-amyloid that is prevalent in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s.

Earlier this month the findings were printed in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration. The fact that BACE2 was the enzyme that researchers were looking for is of interest, because it’s closely related to BACE1, an enzyme involved in producing beta-amyloid.

The research team led by Malcolm A. Leissring made the discovery during a process of testing hundreds of enzymes for their ability to lower beta-amyloid levels. Of the proteins tested, BACE2 was discovered to lower the levels of beta-amyloid more effectively than all others.

The paper explained just how BACE2 destroys beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is only a fragment of a larger protein known as APP, which is produced by enzymes that cut APP in two places. So, BACE1 is responsible for making the first cut that generates beta-amyloid. The Mayo Clinic research showed that BACE2 has the ability to cut beta-amyloid into smallers pieces, which effectively and efficiently destroys it.

In fact, the protection that BACE2 offers is two-fold. A previous study found that BACE2 can also lower beta-amyloid levels in a second way. By cutting APP at a different spot than BACE1 — in the middle of the beta-amyloid portion — it further prevents beta-amyloid production.

In a statement released by the Mayo Clinic, first author Samer Abdul-Hay said, “The fact that BACE2 can lower beta-amyloid by two distinct mechanisms makes this enzyme an especially attractive candidate for gene therapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The potential of BACE2 suggests that impairments of the enzyme could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a significant finding because certain prescriptions, like antiviral drugs used to treat HIV, work by inhibiting enzymes that are similar to BACE2.

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