Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have found that the amount and activity of an enzyme associated with the creation of amyloid-beta protein, the sticky fragments making up the plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, are elevated in parts of the brain where those plaques most frequently occur. Levels of the beta-site APP-cleaving enzyme (BACE) were significantly higher in the temporal cortex and frontal cortex of brain tissue from patients with Alzheimer's disease than in control patients. BACE is also known as beta-secretase, one of two enzymes required to clip or cut the larger amyloid percursor protein (APP) into fragments that include amyloid-beta. The report, which appears in the September Archives of Neurology, may improve understanding of the most common form of Alzheimer's disease. "Our key finding is that beta-secretase activity, the efficiency of how the enzyme works, is increased in Alzheimer's diseased brains specifically in those areas affected by the disease," says Michael Irizarry, MD, of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Unit in the MGH Department of Neurology, the paper's senior author. "The beta-secretase increase persists and even increases throughout the duration of the illness, which may make this enzyme a useful target for treatment, even late in the disease."
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