Whether aggregation of normal protein into tangles is the cause or effect of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Creutzfeldt-Jakob remains unclear. Nevertheless, a number of biotechnology companies are looking at ways to prevent seeding of these proteins. St. Louis-based Novactyl recently was awarded US patent 6,743,771 for a method of blocking protein aggregation using picolinic acid.

The compound exhibits transition metal chelating activity, and according to the patent, "It is believed that abnormal binding of a metal ligand in the metal-binding sites of the normal, soluble proteins is a major factor in the pathogenesis and continued pathology of the resulting diseases."

Michael Douglas, Novactyl's chief scientific officer, says the company has been using picolinic acid to block tangle formation in vitro and to reverse it as well. The company then extended those experiments to ex vivo studies of human brain specimens from cadavers of patients with Alzheimer disease. "We...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?