Treating Alzheimer’s disease: A New Chemical Approach

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From the University of Liverpool and Callaghan Innovation in New Zealand comes a

study that local scientists have been developing; a new kind of chemical approach that will

harness the natural ability of complex sugars in the treatment Alzheimer’s disease.


The team of scientists produced a new library of sugars called heparan sulphates, which are known to control the proteins in the brain that cause memory loss.  This research has discovered  a way of efficiently producing heparan sulphates chemically within a lab, a major step in Alzheimer’s research because heparan sulphates have been found to  block an enzyme in the brain that creates small proteins.  The proteins this enzyme creates are are amyloid proteins, which work as building blocks to create plaque that causes the characteristic memory loss with the progression of Alzheimer’s.  Professor Jerry Turnbull from the University Institute of Integrative Biology remarked that the enzyme they are targeting with their chemically produced sugars is BACE, the enzyme responsible for the creation of amyloid protein.  BACE had proved a difficult enzyme to isolate and block despite many efforts by drug companies, but the ability to mass-produce the heparan sulphates has allowed scientists to continue and further their research of the enzyme.  Using their new chemical approach, research will continue on to test the heparan compounds which work most effectively to block the enzyme, and give off the least amount of side effects.  The creation of lab techniques that allow the production of heparan in mass and the resultant research on the sugar’s BACE enzyme blocking abilities will allow continued research, and hopefully new medications targeted at treating and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s.


1) Ralf Schwörer, Olga V. Zubkova, Jeremy E. Turnbull, Peter C. Tyler. Synthesis of a Targeted Library of Heparan Sulfate Hexa-to Dodecasaccharides as Inhibitors of β-Secretase: Potential Therapeutics for Alzheimer’s Disease. Chemistry – A European Journal, 2013; 19 (21): 6817 DOI: 10.1002/chem.201204519


2) University of Liverpool (2013, May 29). New chemical approach to treat Alzheimer’s.ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 4, 2013, from /releases/2013/05/


By: Lauren Horne

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