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New approach might strike at the core of Alzheimer’s disease

By finding a way to stick an enzyme-inhibiting molecule to the membrane of a cell, scientists may have devised the framework for an Alzheimer’s drug.

Researchers discovered the enzyme beta-secretase in 1999. Identifying it opened up a new line of attack against Alzheimer’s because beta-secretase makes a peptide implicated in the disease. Just as detectives sometimes put the squeeze on small-time crooks in hopes of weakening a crime ring, researchers reasoned that inhibiting beta-secretase could neutralize the real Alzheimer’s suspect — the peptide known as amyloid beta.

But it hasn’t been easy. While scientists have made many beta-secretase inhibitors, the free-floating compounds haven’t knocked down amyloid beta production consistently.

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