The gene, called Pin 1, generates protein that can help untangle twists in the brain's nerve cells caused by one of two proteins that lead to Alzheimer's, said Dr. Liou Yih Cherng, a Singapore-based researcher who was part of the team.
"Our discovery will allow us to look in different directions in thinking about how Alzheimer's disease develops in the first place," said Liou.
"In addition, this may provide a new way to treat the neuronal degenerative diseases."
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia characterized by serious memory loss and changes in personality and behavior. It affects mostly the aged — one in 10 people over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 have it.
The disease damages the brain through a protein, called tau, that forms tangles in the brain's nerve cells.
Pin 1 proved in test tube experiments at Harvard Medical School that it could counter the effects of tau, Liou said.
The study revealed that healthy brains contained high levels of Pin 1 protein, while brains afflicted with Alzheimer's, replete with tangles, had little of it, he said.
When the Pin 1 gene was removed from mice as part of the study, they developed tangles in the brain and neurodegenerative disorders, including loss of motor 원주출장마사지
functions, Liou said.
The study was co-authored
by Dr. Lu Kun Ping of Harvard Medical
School and Dr. Tony Hunter of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, who discovered the Pin 1 gene in 1995.