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Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Contact: Jennifer Bonck

Photo of Guoying Bing, Ph.D.
Guoying Bing, Ph.D.

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“This study may have found an important piece of the puzzle in Alzheimer’s disease in that Pin1 may prevent proteins from becoming tangled, and therefore, increasing Pin1 function in the brain may be an effective way to treat AD.”

-- Guoying Bing, Ph.D.,
professor of anatomy and neurobiology,
UK College of Medicine

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 15, 2003) -- A team of scientists, including a group from the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, has gained important new knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Their findings were published in a recent issue of Nature.

The multi-center team has uncovered new findings regarding the role played in AD by Pin1, a protein that acts on other proteins in the brain.

Scientists studying AD have identified several proteins that form tangles and knots in the brain; these knots and tangles disrupt brain functioning. Researchers want to know how these knots and tangles form, and also, why they form.

Guoying Bing, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology, UK College of Medicine, who led the UK team on the study, said, “This study may have found an important piece of the puzzle in Alzheimer’s disease in that Pin1 may prevent proteins from becoming tangled, and therefore, increasing Pin1 function in the brain may be an effective way to treat AD.”

The research team found a relationship between the amount of Pin1 and both the susceptibility of neurons to damage and the amount of protein tangles. They also found that mice with an artificial disruption of Pin1 develop a disease that resembles Alzheimer’s. Thus, according to the results of the study, Pin1 appears to have a role in preventing and protecting the brain from degenerating.

The study suggests that a loss of Pin1 could contribute to other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington disease.

Lead authors on the paper are Yih-cherng Liou, Ph.D., and Kun Ping Lu, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School. Bing, along with Anyang Sun, Ph.D., of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, UK College of Medicine, as well as faculty from Emory University School of Medicine, the Salk Institute, and Tufts University, also contributed to the study. Tissue samples were provided to Bing’s group by the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.


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