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SMU study shows how a ‘good’ protein can remove a toxic protein related to Alzheimer’s

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: June 29, 2021

While he was in college, James McCormick received bad news: His grandmother had developed Alzheimer’s. “When somebody gets a disease [that] you don’t know much about,” he said, “you want to research it and learn more about it.”

He was used to poring through primary research articles, but later, he was surprised to recognize a protein he was already familiar with from his graduate studies at SMU called P-glycoprotein.

That protein might have the ability to squeeze another harmful protein associated with Alzheimer’s out of cells. Through his readings, McCormick realized that his own skills in computer modeling could help scientists figure out how that removal process might work.

Scientists believe that memory loss, confusion and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease result from cells in the brain not working properly over a long period. People with the disease have clumps of a protein called amyloid-beta that have built up in those cells. Scientists have likened this to the build-up of plaque.

In their recently published study in PLOS One, McCormick and his SMU colleagues confirmed P-glycoprotein’s abilities to expel this Alzheimer’s-related protein through computer simulations and cell studies. While the findings are preliminary, researchers may now focus on identifying small molecules that can increase P-glycoprotein’s ability to clear amyloid-beta from the brain.

“Although this is very fundamental research, I think it does show conclusively that P-glycoprotein does have this capacity to move these [proteins] out of the brain, where they’re no longer dangerous,” said John Wise, an associate professor of biochemistry at SMU and senior author of the study. READ MORE