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Untangling the Brain: Enzyme counters Alzheimer's-like snarls

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10:03am, July 30, 2003

An enzyme prevents brain cells in aging mice from developing knots of proteins resembling those that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, scientists report. Known as Pin1, the enzyme could form the basis of new treatments for the memory-stealing disorder.

In 1995, Kun Ping Lu of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Tony Hunter of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., discovered Pin1. They subsequently showed that it interacts with a protein called tau, an important component of one of the two brain lesions seen in Alzheimer's disease. Known as tangles, these snarls of tau filaments turn up inside nerve cells. In contrast, the other lesion consists of an abnormal buildup outside nerve cells of a protein fragment known as beta-amyloid.

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