Technion researchers make breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease research

Researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) developed a molecule that could slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report published in the applied Chemistry In the past week.

One of the causes of neurodegenerative disease is an excess of copper ions within cells. When oxidizing agents called free radicals are formed by copper and the beta amyloid Cu-Aβ complex, damage to brain cells can occur. However, the removal of copper breaks down this substance, which prevents cell death and inhibits the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

PhD student Anastasia Behar of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology Schulich Faculty of Chemistry (credit: TECHNION SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)

Copper is separated from amyloid by introducing molecules that bind to copper ions, a process known as chelation. This can be difficult as the molecules must be stable and resistant to oxidation-reduction reactions. They also should not bind to zinc ions because they are necessary for normal brain function and their binding will prevent the molecules from binding to copper.

The artificial molecule developed by the researchers, called P3, is capable of binding copper, forming CuP3, and removing copper from amyloid, thus inhibiting the formation of harmful oxidizing agents. One caveat is that the molecule also binds to zinc, but the bond is relatively weak and makes the zinc-amyloid complex unstable; therefore, P3 is primarily bound to copper.

These findings, from Professor Galia Maayan and PhD student Anastasia Behar from the Technion’s Schulich Faculty of Chemistry, as well as Professor Christelle Hureau from the Laboratoire de Chimie de Coordination du CNRS, Toulouse, France, open new avenues in research towards treating Alzheimer’s, a debilitating disease with no known cure.

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