Antibodies against Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers describe new antibodies as possible active agents against Alzheimer’s disease


Researchers from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI and the Halle-based company Probiodrug AG have succeeded in developing antibodies as potential active agents against the disease. At the same time, for the first time they describe in detail the structure of a harmful form of the peptide associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The research groups present their findings in the international “Journal of Biological Chemistry”.

Alzheimer’s disease emerges when certain harmful deposits are formed in the brain. “A specially modified form of the amyloid beta peptide is particularly dangerous here. These clump together very quickly due to their structure and are then deposited in the brain”, says Prof Dr Milton T. Stubbs from the Institute for Biochemistry and Biotechnology at MLU. He led the new study together with the Department of Drug Design and Target Validation at the Fraunhofer IZI in Halle (IZI MWT) and the company Probiodrug. The precursors of these deposits are among the most likely causes of the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Numerous international companies and research institutes are working on therapeutic options against Alzheimer’s disease. Probiodrug recently made headlines when a low-molecular active agent developed by the company provided promising results during initial trials on Alzheimer’s patients. The active agent inhibits the emergence of the modified peptide and its deposits in the brain.

The work accomplished by the Halle-based research groups and by Probiodrug complements this approach: “Our new antibody active agent shall take effect once the harmful peptides have already formed in the body. You can imagine this like a vacuum cleaner that removes the substances from the system”, says Dr Inge Lues, Chief Development Officer at Probiodrug and co-author of the publication. Similar to a vaccination, the antibodies could be injected into humans.

Detailed knowledge regarding how the harmful peptide can be identified by antibodies is required so that the antibodies applied for this purpose can be further developed. “Once we know the structure of the peptide we can develop the antibodies so that they only attack this one substance”, says Stubbs. His research group analysed the structure of the antibody and how it identifies the Alzheimer’s peptide.

Based on these results, new antibodies could be specifically developed and further researched. “The research efforts showed that the new active agent is well suited to precisely identify the harmful peptide structures, which should lead to fewer side effects”, says Prof Dr Hans-Ulrich Demuth, Director of Fraunhofer IZI MWT Halle. The preclinical and clinical development of this antibody will be accomplished by Probiodrug AG.

In addition, the study showed that the modification in the peptide leads to a structure which – simply put – resembles the shape of a boxing glove. This distinctive structure could explain why this form of Alzheimer’s peptide compounds clump together so quickly.


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