University of Washington bioengineers have designed a peptide structure that can stop the harmful changes of the body’s normal proteins into a state that’s linked to widespread diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease. The synthetic molecule blocks these proteins as they shift from their normal state into an abnormally folded form by targeting a toxic intermediate phase.
The discovery of a protein blocker could lead to ways to diagnose and even treat a large swath of diseases that are hard to pin down and rarely have a cure. The researchers hope their designed compounds could be used as diagnostics for amyloid diseases and as drugs to treat the diseases or at least slow progression.
“For example, patients could have a broad first-pass test done to see if they have an amyloid disease and then drill down further to determine which proteins are present to identify the specific disease,” Daggett said.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (General Medicine Sciences), the National Science Foundation, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust.