Alessandra d’Azzo, PhD, Department of Genetics

New clues for fighting Alzheimer’s disease

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have made a surprising connection between a rare disorder that strikes young people and Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that usually affects older people. The connection is an enzyme that nerve cells use to recycle or dispose of unneeded proteins. Young people with the disorder sialidosis have too little enzyme. This study suggests the enzyme might also play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Based on this discovery, St. Jude researchers tried increasing enzyme activity in the brains of specially bred mice. Scientists focused on an area of the brain involved in memory and thinking.

The mice, like humans with Alzheimer’s disease, develop plaques in their brains made of abnormal clumps of protein. Mice with increased enzyme activity had significantly fewer plaques. The research was led by Alessandra d’Azzo, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Genetics.

“This is the first time this enzyme has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. We hope it will lead to better tools to diagnose as well as slow or even reverse the disease in some patients,” d’Azzo said.

December 3, 2013

Read the news release