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Researchers Find Possible Alzheimer's Drug in Sewage Bacteria

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  • Researchers Find Possible Alzheimer's Drug in Sewage Bacteria

    Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Bacteria that grow in sewage systems contains a substance that may eventually help treat patients with Alzheimer's disease, Swiss researchers found.

    The substance, which is also responsible for the formation of pond scum, appears to neutralize cholinesterase, a protein responsible for the development of Alzheimer's, researchers led by Karl Gademann at the Laboratory for Organic Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found.

    Doctors are already using so-called cholinesterase- inhibitors including Johnson & Johnson's Razadyne for mild and moderate cases of Alzheimer's. The new substance, nostocarboline, is as effective in test tube trials as Razadyne though it would take many years to develop a drug from it, the researchers said.

    Substances isolated from bacteria are now widely used in medicines such as antibiotics.

    The researchers, which included scientists at the Universities of Zurich and Lausanne, also found that nostocarboline is almost identical to a substance generated in the human brain.

    "The question is now whether too much or too little of the substance prevents or triggers Alzheimer's,'' Gademann said in a statement e-mailed by the University of Zurich.

    To contact the reporter on this story:
    Carey Sargent in Geneva at at
    [email protected].
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  • #2
    Re: Researchers Find Possible Alzheimer's Drug in Sewage Bacteria

    Pond Scum: Ally in Alzheimer's Fight?

    By Miranda Hitti
    WebMD Medical News

    Swiss Scientists Say Pond Scum Algae May Inspire New Brain Drugs

    Dec. 29, 2005 -- In the hunt for new drugs for Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders, Swiss scientists are turning to an unlikely ally: pond scum.

    They're not dredging up algae and feeding it to lab mice. At least, not yet.

    So far, the scientists have just done lab tests on a compound made by cyanobacteria -- commonly called "blue-green algae" -- and they like what they've seen. Cyanobacteria are not true algae, but bacterial organisms which live in the water and have photosynthetic properties like plants.

    Paul Becher of the University of Zurich and colleagues report the findings in the Journal of Natural Products.

    Don't get the wrong idea from the journal's name. This study isn't about a product that's on the market. It could be years before anyone knows if this early research will actually help anyone facing Alzheimer's.

    Still, pond scum's image is looking up -- for the moment, anyway.

    Algae Ingredient

    Talk about humble beginnings. The compound studied by Becher's team originally came from cyanobacteria in a wastewater lagoon. It was then frozen, dried, and purified.

    Next, the scientists used lasers and chemicals to analyze the compound, which is called nostocarboline.

    Then came the big test. The researchers exposed nostocarboline to a type of enzyme called cholinesterase. The algae compound thwarted cholinesterase.

    Here's why that's a big deal. Cholinesterase breaks down a brain chemical called acetylcholine. People with Alzheimer's disease have low levels of acetylcholine.

    Working against the action of cholinesterase can help with acetylcholine levels. Some current Alzheimer's drugs (such as Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne) target cholinesterase in a similar fashion. The researchers compared the strength of cholinesterase-inhibiting activity of nostocarboline with that of Razadyne and found it to be similar.

    Nostocarboline might one day lead to new drugs that counter brain diseases, the researchers write.

    SOURCES: Becher, P. Journal of Natural Products, Dec. 26, 2005; vol 68: pp 1793-1795. News release, American Chemical Society. Columbia University Press Encyclopedia
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