IIT-Guwahati takes ‘Trojan horse’ route to fight Alzheimer’s disease

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A war trick borrowed from Greek mythology, specifically poet Homer’s epic Iliad, could help reduce short-term memory losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati (IIT-G) have, after a five-year study, arrived at methods for preventing the accumulation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain, which leads to memory loss.

One is the use of “trojan peptides” that does what the Trojan horse did for the ancient Greeks in their victory over Troy. The other is the application of a low-voltage electric field toward preventing amyloid plaques from aggregating to cause memory loss.

The cause of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain.

“This peptide is akin to the plaque that blocks arteries over a period of time, affecting blood supply and leading to cardiovascular diseases. Its aggregation, meaning the formation of one over the other, deforms the cortex of the brain leading to Alzheimer’s,” Vibin Ramakrishnan of IIT-G’s Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, told The Hindu.

He teamed up with Professor Harshal Nemade of IIT-G’s Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, and research scholars Gaurav Pandey and Jahnu Saikia, for the study on the neurochemical principles of Alzheimer’s disease and ways of arresting it.

The peptide molecules need to have a certain structure to aggregate.

The use of an external electric or magnetic field modulates these molecules to “pull back the possibility of Alzheimer’s to a certain extent”.

The second approach has been to design a “deceitful” peptide with “negative syncretical points” for checking the plaque formation.

“The trojan peptide is roughly like the peptide in the body. But while it goes along with the other peptides, its function is contrary to aggregation. Through intravenous injection of the trojan peptide, we can retard the degeneration of nerve cells by 17-35%, translating into a 10-year delay in the onset of the disease,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said.

Next step

The next step for the researchers is to work with these techniques on mice induced with Alzheimer’s at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research in Guwahati.

The IIT-G researchers said some 100 potential drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease failed between 1998 and 2011. The development of a cure for the disease is important for India, which is third behind China and the U.S. in the number of number of Alzheimer’s patients, they said.

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