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Green protein inhibits Alheimer’s, CSIRO scientists find


BY NYSSA SKILTON

MEDICAL REPORTER

18/11/2008

CSIRO scientists have developed a way to screen for compounds that can inhibit the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The system involves using live yeast and a protein called Abeta fused to a fluorescent green protein, which comes from jellyfish.

The scientists, working within CSIRO’s Preventive Health Flagship, published their findings in the latest edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the fourth leading cause of death in people older than 65 and there is no cure known to science.

It is thought to be the result of a loss of neurons in the brain, caused by a process in which toxic forms, known as multimers, of the small Abeta protein are created.

Lead author Ian Macreadie said the scientists had discovered a ”rapid screening system” to identify inhibitors of this process.

”Compounds that inhibit the formation of the toxic multimers may lead to the prevention or delay of the disease,” Dr Macreadie said.

”The yeast trial we developed could lead to the discovery of new agents which may prove useful in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The researchers tested their screening system using folate, a nutrient known to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. They found that the folate made the yeast with the jellyfish protein greener.

The green colour signifies that the additive, in this case the folate, has stopped the Abeta protein from changing into its toxic forms.

”The greener the better,” Dr Macreadie said. ”We’re interested in finding not just folate, but many existing compounds and novel compounds that may be helpful in [combating] Alzheimer’s.”

The researchers have already screened hundreds of compounds in the search for Alzheimer’s inhibitors. They plan to screen foods to identify nutrients they may use to enrich foods to protect consumers.