Alzheimer's and Aging Research Center of Torrey Pines, California

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Research Activities

ß - Amyloid Protein

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a progressive Neurodegenerative disorder that affects approximately half of the elderly population over age 85 and roughly 4 million people in the United States.

The Alzheimer's and Aging Research Center supports research regarding the specific processes involved in the ß-amyloid Aß protein and its role in the early phases of Alzheimer's. The secretion of in the beginning stages of AD, appears to be the major cause of plaques (formations or growths) in the brain.

Scientists have made a therapeutic target by using the center's synthetic combinatorial libraries (thousands to millions chemical of compounds) to identify compounds that could possibly be a potential treatment for Alzheimer's.

Protein-Protein Interactions

In another study, our group supports a study of over 30 proteins that are found in the bloodstreams of humans and other mammals.

Molecule ParticlesThese proteins, some dissolved in serum and others embedded on the surfaces of circulating red and white blood cells, are collectively called "complement". The primary function of complement is to defend the body against infection. Through the cooperative actions of its component proteins, complement not only recognizes and kills invading microorganisms, it also attracts and directs the action of phagocytic cells at sites of injury and infection, and augments ("complements") the antibody response to invasion. Hence complement is important in both inflammation and the antibody response of the immune system.

The overall goal of our studies is to obtain molecular pictures of the series of interactions that occur among complement proteins during recognition and killing of foreign cells. Such high resolution pictures add to our understanding of how proteins recognize each other, and are essential for practical applications such as designing drugs that enhance or modulate complement activity.

While the ability to enhance or focus the effects of complement has clear benefits, the ability to control complement is equally important. Whereas inherited complement deficiencies can lead to recurrent infections and autoimmune diseases, inappropriate or uncontrolled complement activation contributes to many acute and chronic inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, the ischemia/reperfusion injury associated with heart attacks, and Alzheimer's disease.

The ability to control complement is also important for organ replacement therapy, because the natural protective function of complement presents a major barrier to the use of non-human organs; this is one of the few available alternatives which are necessary because there is a chronic shortage of human donors.

Unfortunately, drugs that regulate complement are not yet available, so development of an effective complement inhibitor would fill an important clinical void.