Science + Technology

UCLA Scientist Awarded $7.9 Million for National Study on Alzheimer’s; Team Aims to Unravel How Sticky Proteins Disrupt Brain Function


David B. Teplow, Ph.D.,(Tarzana) professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine atUCLA, was awarded a $7.9-million grant from the National Institute on Aging to lead a national effort to uncover how brainproteins stick together abnormally to cause Alzheimer's. The multidisciplinaryproject will team experts at Boston University, Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA.

"Our consortium aims toilluminate — at the most fundamental cellular and biological levels — how theabnormal folding of proteins produces neurological disorders, and to translateour discoveries into effective treatments for Alzheimer's and other agingdiseases," explained Teplow, principal investigatorand director of the UCLA Biopolymer Laboratory.

"We knew that no singleapproach could answer the question of how abnormal protein folding producesdisease," he added. "A multidisciplinaryprogram integrating the efforts of neurologists, physicists, chemists and biologistswill create a synergy and potential for new therapies that five individualefforts could not."

In Alzheimer disease, amyloid proteins clump together to form sticky plaques inthe brain, interfering with cells' ability to communicate and eventuallycausing their death. This disruptionresults in the progressive memory loss and inability to think that typifies thedisorder.

Teplow's team suspects that structural changes to the amyloid proteins make them poisonous and lead toAlzheimer's. The researchers hope to unravel how the proteins form thesetoxins, and translate their findings into the design and testing of new drugsfor Alzheimer's and other devastating neurological disorders caused byabnormal protein folding, including Huntington's, Parkinson's and prion diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The multi-site team includesGal Bitan, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology atUCLA; George B. Benedek, Ph.D., the Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Physics and Biological Physics at MIT;Michael Bowers, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at UCSB; and H. Eugene Stanley,Ph.D., university professor at Boston University.



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