Taiwan scientists find potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease

2017/06/17 15:54:04
Photo courtesy of National Cheng Kung University

Photo courtesy of National Cheng Kung University

Taipei, June 17 (CNA) A research team at Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) has proven the efficacy of a zinc finger-like protein in restoring memory deficits, which suggests it has the potential to treat Alzheimer's disease.

The team was led by Chang Nan-shan (張南山), director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Sze Chun-I (司君一), director of the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, and Kuo Yu-min (郭余民), a professor in the department.

According to the team, Alzheimer's disease is mainly the result of cell death and tissue loss in the brain that is believed to be caused by plaques and tangles building up in the nerve cells.

In their research, the scientists found that Zfra, a naturally occurring 31-amino-acid zinc finger-like protein, can effectively reduce plaque aggregation and tangle formation.

Zinc fingers are small protein structures coordinated by at least one zinc ion that serve a wide variety of biological functions.

Zfra's effectiveness was proven in an experiment in which mice were injected with a small dose of synthetic Zfra peptides every week, the team said.

After one month, 50 percent of the plaques and tangles in the mice's brains were removed, with their memory deficits restored almost fully, it added.

The team acknowledged, however, that whether the discovery can actually lead to a breakthrough in battling Alzheimer's may still be quite a ways off.

It said that developing a new Alzheimer's drug based on the study's results will cost a lot of money and take a lot of time, and it urged international pharmaceutical companies to get involved so that preclinical and clinical trials of a Zfra-based drug could be undertaken as early as possible.

The results of the study were published online in March in Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, an open access journal of the U.S.-based Alzheimer's Association.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang and Y.F. Low)
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