New Alzheimer’s Target Identified

Researchers in Hong Kong have discovered a crucial part of the genetic machinery that ‘switches’ on the Neuroglobin gene.

AsianScientist (Nov. 2, 2016) – Researchers in Hong Kong have discovered a crucial part of the genetic machinery that switches on the Neuroglobin gene, opening up a new opportunity in treating Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published in Nucleic Acids Research.

AD currently affects more than 70,000 people in Hong Kong and the number is estimated to reach 280,000 in 20 years because of the aging population. Neuroglobin has previously been shown to protect the brain of mice and is shown to reduce the severity of damage due to stroke and AD. In humans, the two major risk factors of AD—age and being female sex—associated with lower levels of Neuroglobin. Identifying the regulators of Neuroglobin is therefore of paramount importance, as they will serve as a potential targets for the development of novel treatments with gene therapy or drugs.

The research team, led by Dr. Tan-Un K.C. from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), performed the study with the hypothesis that there is a ‘switch’ that controls the expression of the Neuroglobin gene which is located far away from the gene itself.

The research team found that there is a segment of DNA which interacts with the Neuroglobin gene by means of a protein called GATA-2 in human neuronal cells. The results showed that the novel DNA segment is powerful in switching on Neuroglobin expression. Removal of either GATA-2 protein or the DNA segment from the cells led to a substantial decrease in Neuroglobin expression.

“AD is an incurable disease at the moment and understanding the control mechanism of an important protector in the neural tissue such as Neuroglobin will provide us with a new therapeutic strategy,” said co-author Professor Godfrey Chan Chi-Fung from the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at HKU.

The article can be found at: Tam et al. (2016) Identification of a Novel Distal Regulatory Element of the Human Neuroglobin Gene by the Chromosome Conformation Capture Approach.


Source: University of Hong Kong; Photo: Pixabay.
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