COLUMBIA, Mo., Oct. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have identified an enzyme responsible for the deterioration of brain function experienced by people suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia focused on amyloid-beta peptide, a common neuron killing toxin found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and astrocytes, which supports neurons and is the major cell in the brain.
In lab tests, James Lee, assistant professor of biological engineering and his former doctoral student, Donghui Zhu, studied how the toxin affects and interacts with the cell to activate a critical enzyme -- phospholipase A2. Lab tests showed that with increased activity, phospholipase A2 negatively affected the mitochondria, which is responsible for energy production, resulting in increased oxidative stress.
Zhu and Lee said an increase in oxidative stress further promotes neuron death, worsens the disease and causes decreased energy levels.
"Alzheimer's is a complicated disease," Lee said. "We know that phospholipase A2 is one of the key factors. If we can regulate phospholipase A2, maybe it can become part of the therapeutic strategy for treating Alzheimer's."
The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.