Annenberg Radio News

A promising breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

The team finds connection between ‘microprotein’ and Alzheimer’s

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day. And as Ethan Huang reports, a breakthrough discovery was made by researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

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Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia and memory loss globally. The CDC says nearly six million people in the U.S. currently experience it. While a cure has yet to be found, some researchers are making great strides.

A team of Ph.D students found a microprotein they named “SHMOOSE”. As reported in their paper for Molecular Psychiatry, they discovered a genetic mutation that partially makes SHMOOSE inactive, leading to a 30 percent increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s. Lead author, Brendan Miller, sees these findings as a potential door into new drug research and treatment.

“This pinpoints this new field of microproteins as an untapped source for explaining neuro degeneration... the next step would be to see if there’s some type of way to engineer this peptide to serve as a drug candidate in Alzheimer’s disease and test it.”

But finding new solutions is not the only goal of neurologists. Dr. Helena Chui is the Raymond and Betty McCarron Chair in Neurology at the Department of Neurology in the Keck School of Medicine.

“We want a cure. There’s so many things in neurology that we want to cure. And Alzheimer’s and strokes and Parkinson’s disease and ALS. We want a cure. But in the meantime, we’re committed to the care.”

And though there are many experiencing the disease, research has come a very long way. As neurologist Dr. Paul Aisen of the Keck School of Medicine says,

“So, I would like to convey this sense of optimism that this is a terrible disease. It’s the most feared disease of aging. It’s very, very common, affects every family. And so I would like to spread a message of optimism that we’ve made a lot of progress.”

World Alzheimer’s Day is recognized in support of those dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as a celebration of the breakthroughs being made and the hope of memories regained.