Researchers Identify Which Protein is Key to Alzheimer's

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerNovember 16, 2015

A recent study has identified a key protein in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, noting that its genetic removal in mice with dementia increased cognitive ability and reduced signs of dementia in the brain.

Learn more about this study and how it may play an important role in future drug development.

The Role of the GPR3 Protein in Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s epidemic has shown no signs of slowing with over 46 million people suffering from dementia worldwide. Researchers estimate that number will reach 131.5 million by 2050 unless a cure is found. While a cure seems far off, researchers are making groundbreaking studies into the pathology of Alzheimer’s, hopefully leading to new drug and treatment options.

Most recently, researchers have identified a protein that appears to be crucial to the development of Alzheimer’s. The protein, called GPR3, is thought to be largely responsible for the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain, which is a hallmark characteristic of the disease. The study evaluated the effects of genetically deleting GPR3 in mice with four different types of dementia. After deleting GPR3, one of the mouse models experienced cognitive improvement and reduced signs of dementia in the brain.

Additionally, researchers found autopsies on the brains of people who died with or from Alzheimer’s, showed high amounts of GPR3 associated with the progression of the disease.

Researchers caution that their research was conducted on mice and that more research will need to be conducted to see if humans will experience the same positive effects by removing GPR3. The study was published in the 2015 edition of Science Translational Medicine.

New Protein May be a Target for Dementia Drugs

Researchers hope their new discovery will be instrumental in providing a new direction for dementia drugs. Currently, half of all drugs on the market target G protein-coupled receptors, but there is not a drug that targets this specific protein.

Dr. Clare Walton, Research Manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, is cautiously optimistic about the study saying:

“As it is, current treatments only help to manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and no new drugs have been discovered for more than a decade.While the study has identified that removing a protein in the brain (known as GPR3) reduces the amount of toxic amyloid plaques, further work is needed to discover a drug that can be safely administered to target this protein. Alzheimer’s Society will spend £100 million on research over the next decade because preliminary studies like this are vital to uncover new drug targets and drive forward our search for better dementia treatments.”

Researchers are also encouraged and noted that their study is:

“An example of how testing a drug target in multiple disease-relevant models can build a strong case to convince the pharmaceutical industry to launch a drug development program for Alzheimer’s.”

No new Alzheimer’s drugs have been discovered for more than 10 years. Do you believe that this the beginning of  new treatment options? Share your thoughts with us on this development in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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