BIOMEDICINE: Carbs Worth Remembering

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Science  23 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5781, pp. 1719b
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5781.1719b

The brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) show an aberrant buildup of oligomeric aggregates of amyloid β peptide (Aβ). These aggregates are neurotoxic and are believed by many researchers to be a central cause of the memory loss and cognitive decline that characterize the disease. Hence, interventions that inhibit Aβ oligomerization would be expected to slow or prevent disease progression.

McLaurin et al. test this hypothesis in a mouse model of AD by administering cyclohexanehexols, a group of small carbohydrate-like molecules that had been found in previous cell culture studies to stabilize Aβ in a conformation that precluded its assembly into oligomers. The treated mice showed improved cognitive function and reduced neuropathology, and they lived longer than control mice. The cyclohexanehexols were effective not only in a prevention setting but even when given to mice after the onset of symptoms. These results underscore the pathogenic role of Aβ oligomerization in AD and raise the possibility that derivatives of these compounds, which cross the blood/brain barrier and can be taken orally, may offer therapeutic benefit to patients with the disease. — PAK

Nat. Med. 12, 10.1038/nm1423 (2006).

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