UCLA researchers determine toxicity levels of Alzheimer’s clusters in brain

Findings provide target for new classes of therapeutic drugs.

Scientists have long suspected that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by plaques formed when the small protein amyloid-beta (Aß) binds to itself in clusters and undergoes a chemical change, creating protein deposits in the brain.

However, recent studies have suggested it is not the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s but the small, grape-like clusters of Aß. The clusters vary in size, and the relationship between cluster size and toxicity — the ability to kill nerve cells — has never been determined accurately.

Red, red wine: How it fights Alzheimer’s

Researchers discover how compounds found in wine thwart disease in mice

Scientists call it the “French paradox” — a society that, despite consuming food high in cholesterol and saturated fats, has long had low death rates from heart disease. Research has suggested it is the red wine consumed with all that fatty food that may be beneficial — and not only for cardiovascular health but in warding off certain tumors and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Getting Out of the Loop of Alzheimer’s Disease

Getting Out of the Loop of Alzheimer's Disease.jpg

Scientists from UCLA recently pinpointed a possible physical origin of Alzheimer’s disease. The amyloid-beta protein has long been known to clump in the brain and be involved in the progression of the disease. The UCLA team identified a loop in the protein that is likely to enable amyloid-beta’s adhesion process. This discovery suggests new ways to treat the disorder’s cause, rather than just the symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of late-life dementia. It is estimated to affect 24 million people worldwide, and half of the people over 85 may suffer from it. This fatal disorder is characterized by a decline in the individuals’ memory and in their ability to think and function independently. Current drugs treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but not the underlying cause of the disease.

Past Members

Name Position Research Project Current Position
Robin Roychaudhuri, PhD  Senior Research Associate Structural biology of the amyloid β-protein (Aβ) Research Associate (Faculty of Neuroscience), Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience
Taylor Whitaker, B.S.  Undergraduate Researcher The role of methionine 35 of Aβ42 in structure and aggregation Medical Student, USC
Elisabeth Hodara, B.S.  Undergraduate Researcher Structural elucidation of the Icelandic variant of Aβ42 Research Assistant
Angela Wong, B.S.  Undergraduate Researcher Aβ42 oligomers in cerebrospinal fluid Nursing Program
Shiela Beroukhim, B.S.  Undergraduate Researcher Effect of GSE fractions on Aβ aggregation Medical Student, UCLA
Tien-Phat Huynh, B.S.  Undergraduate Researcher Stability of individual Aβ oligomers MD/PhD Student, Washington University School of Medicine
Ghiam Yamin, MD, PhD Graduate Student Aβ42 as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease Residency in Diagnostic Radiology, UC San Diego
Eric Pang, PhD Graduate Student Mass spectrometry of Aβ. Research Fellow, Division of Drug Safety Research, FDA
Mingfeng Yang, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Computational analysis of Aβ structure and properties. Software Engineer at RED Interactive Agency
Mei-Sha Chen Visiting Scientist Aβ monomer association   
Mohammed Inathayllah, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Conformational studies and effect of assemblies on amyloid peptides. Senior Research Associate, Stanford School of Medicine
Kenjiro Ono, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Isolation and properties of individual Aβ40 oligomers. Grape seed extract as therapeutic agent. Lecturer, Kanazawa University, Japan
Samir Maji, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Aβ Folding and Assembly by Intrinsic Fluorescence. Assistant Professor Biotechnology, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Noel Lazo, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Aβ Folding and Assembly by Limited Proteolysis. Assistant Professor & Carlson Chair in Chemistry, Clark University
Gal Bitan, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar 3D Structure of Aβ Assemblies. Associate Professor at UCLA
Marina Kirkatadze, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Spectroscopic Studies of Aβ Assembly. Deputy director and Head of Biophysics & Conformation Unit, Biochemistry Platform, Analytical R&D at Sanofi Pasteur 
Youcef Fezoui, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Thermodynamics of Aβ Folding. Director, Licensing & Business Development, Merck, Serono
Dominic Walsh, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Aβ Oligomerization. Associate Professor of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Deborah Watson, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar APP Processing in Familial AD. Research Assistant Professor; University of Pennsylvania
Erica Fradinger, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Biological Activity of Soluble Aβ. Assistant Professor of Biology – Whittier College

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