In a breakthrough advance, researchers have identified an enzyme that may help protect against the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's disease, a progressive disease that destroys mental functions. According to scientists at Indiana University (IU) in the US, NMNAT2, or nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 2, is a key neuronal maintenance factor. Many neurodegenerative disorders are caused by accumulation of proteins in the brain.
Researchers believe that these conditions, called proteinopathies, occur when proteins "misfold," causing them to grow sticky and clump up in the brain in a form often referred to as plaques, or tangles. And as a molecular chaperone, NMNAT2 binds to misfolded proteins to prevent or repair the errors that cause these clumps.
Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases come under the category of common proteinopathies. In the study, it was found that people with lower NMNAT2 were more likely to suffer from dementia, suggesting that the protein helps preserve neurons related to learning and memory. These findings were published in the journal PLOS Biology.