According to Science Daily, the protein, neuregulin-1 has a lot of has a lot of forms and functions in the brain and is already a possible target for brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and schizophrenia.
“Neuregulin-1 has broad therapeutic potential, but mechanistically, we are still learning about how it works,” says the study’s senior investigator Dr. Kuo-Fen Lee, a professor in the Salk Institute’s Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology and holder of the Helen McLoraine Chair in Molecular Neurobiology. “We’ve shown that it promotes metabolism of the brain plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Researchers tested the effects of increasing the protein levels based on previous studies which showed lowered levels of amyloid precursor proteins, which creates amyloid beta that accumulates in the brain to form plaques linked to the disease. They also found that increasing the levels of neuregulin-1 in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease showed improvement in their performance on test of spatial memory and markers for the disease decreased, upi.com reported.
The study involving mice revealed that the protein helps with the breakdown of amyloid-beta plaque formation in the brain, which allows neuron signaling to improve which may lead to the memory improvements exhibited by the mice. Other studies claim that neuregulin-1 could protect neurons from damage caused when the flow of blood is blocked.
For the study, the team raised the level of one of two types of the protein in the hippocampi of mice, finding that the increases in either showed improvement in the rodents’ performance on the memory tests. Researchers found that compared to untreated mice, the levels of amyloid-beta and plaques were lower in mice receiving treatment.
Meanwhile, researchers are too concerned that the increased level of protein affect brain function and are now testing a method of raising levels of neuregulin-1 which can already be found in the brain. Newsmax.comreported that although the tests showed promising results, researchers still pointed out that the neuregulin-1 treatment was only tested in one type of rodent, and they still need to do further study on how it really works.
“There’s much more work ahead before neuregulin-1 could become a treatment, but we are excited about its potential, possibly in combination with other therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Lee said in a press release.