Could a new treatment for Alzheimer's be found by studying type 2 diabetes? Dr. Jie Zheng and his team believe they have found a link that could lead to a single drug that treats both diseases.
Zheng, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The University of Akron, has received a $290,125 grant from the National Science Foundation for his research into a new class of Abeta inhibitors, a general class of drugs designed to treat Alzheimer's and other nerve disorders.
Neurodegeneration is the umbrella term for the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons, which can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer's. As research in this field progresses, many similarities appear that relate these diseases to one another on a sub-cellular level, namely in the proteins found in peptides. Discovering these similarities offers hope for therapeutic advances that could treat many diseases simultaneously.
The majority of Alzheimer's patients have type 2 diabetes, or are at a greater risk for developing it. "An abnormal accumulation of Abeta peptides is linked to Alzheimer's, and a separate abnormal accumulation of hIAPP peptides is linked to type 2 diabetes," Zheng explains.
Zheng believes that his team may have found a potential molecular link between Abeta and hIAPP via specific cross-sequence interactions. Funds from this NSF grant will focus on that research, which could lead to a common peptide inhibitor drug to treat both diseases.
"This research has the potential to set the foundation for developing new therapeutic interventions for neurodegenerative diseases," says Zheng, who has dedicated his career to studying this significant problem.
This is Zheng's third NSF grant, including an NSF CAREER award, to support his research in neurodegenerative diseases. Earlier this year he also received a grant from the Alzheimer's Association for research into the application of peptide inhibitors.