IRB Barcelona launches a new project to fight Alzheimer’s disease

Diagram of a possible structure adopted by the oligomers in the cell membrane

Diagram of a possible structure adopted by the oligomers in the cell membrane

  • <p>Diagram of a possible structure adopted by the oligomers in the cell membrane</p>
  • <p>"La Marató 2013" awarding ceremony, with Natàlia Carulla (fifth from left) together with two members of her research team, Montserrat Serra (third from left) and Martí Ninot (fourth from left)</p>

The project, led by Natàlia Carulla, has been awarded funds from “La Marató de TV3” initiative held in 2013.

The project, which will be undertaken over three years, aims to verify a new therapeutic target to fight Alzheimer’s.

Natàlia Carulla —associate researcher in the Peptide and Protein Laboratory led by Ernest Giralt, at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)— and her research group have started a study addressing the characterisation and validation of a complex formed by beta-amyloid proteins as a pharmacological target for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Coordinated with teams from Leuven University and the VIB Research Institute (both in Belgium), this project was one of several initiatives to be granted in the 2013 edition of “La Marató de TV3”, which focused on neurodegenerative diseases. Awarded 332,000 euros, the project will be developed over three years.

Previous research into the disease has revealed an association between its onset and the presence of aggregates of beta-amyloid protein, called oligomers. These aggregates are thought to alter the cell membranes of neurons, causing a toxic effect. In line with this hypothesis, the research team proposes that these oligomers are formed in the cell membrane, thus contributing to the onset of the disease.

Before submitting this project, the team worked on the preparation of oligomers using a cell-like membrane environment. Under these conditions, they found that oligomers present unprecedented properties: a stable and well-defined structure, which would facilitate the design of specific drugs to disrupt its function.

The new study seeks to determine the three-dimensional structure of the oligomers, describe their effect on the cell membrane, and finally validate their structure as a therapeutic target for Alzheimer's disease.