Fungus May Block Alzheimer’s Protein

Researchers have found that some types of fungus appear to inhibit the build-up of tau, a protein that is linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. T. Chris Gamblin, Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas, says, “In Alzheimer’s disease, through a mechanism we don’t quite understand, tau is changed in a way that causes it to start clumping together with other tau molecules, forming string-like fibrils that accumulate into the pathological structure in Alzheimer’s disease called ‘neurofibrillary tangles.’”



For the study, researchers tested 17 different types of fungal products, most of which have similar structures to compounds found to hinder tau formation in previous tests. Results showed that three of the 17 fungal products were successful at inhibiting tau accumulation. “All three of them did block the aggregation of tau 100 percent as far as we can tell,” says Gamblin. “Some of them took very high concentrations to do so though.”



The ability of one of these fungal products (Asperbenzaldehyde) to block the tau protein was exciting because research has never been able to identify a similarly structured molecule as a tau fibril inhibitor. “Asperbenzaldehyde is also a precursor to a large class of molecules that help inhibit fatty acid oxidation,” says Gamblin. “It’s interesting that people believe that inhibiting fatty acid oxidation in Alzheimer’s patients may also have therapeutic benefit.”



Gamblin says there are two further steps needed to see if these natural compounds could become therapies for humans living with Alzheimer’s. “The first would be to test the compounds on living cells or model organisms like fly or mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease to see if they can prevent tau fibril formation in a cell or neuron. This is something we are currently working on. The second step would be to collaborate with a medicinal chemist to change the molecules in very specific ways to try to enhance their potency.”






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