A team of SMU biological scientists has confirmed that P-glycoprotein (P-gp) has the ability to remove a toxin from the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The finding could lead to new treatments for the disease that affects nearly 6 million Americans. It was that hope that motivated lead researchers James W. McCormick ’17 and Lauren Ammerman ’21 to pursue the research as SMU graduate students after they both lost a grandmother to the disease while at SMU.
In the Alzheimer’s brain, abnormal levels of amyloid-β proteins clump together to form plaques that collect between neurons and can disrupt cell function. This is believed to be one of the key factors that triggers memory loss, confusion and other common symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease.
“We were able to demonstrate both computationally and experimentally that P-gp, a critical toxin pump in the body, is able to transport this amyloid-β protein,” said John Wise, associate professor in the SMU Department of Biological Sciences and co-author of the study published in PLOS ONE.