Using Math to Help Treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Other Diseases

August 22, 2019

Illustration of protein aggregation. Aggregates are formed through an initial primary nucleation step followed by elongation. Once a critical concentration of aggregates is reached, secondary nucleation introduces a positive feedback cycle leading to exponential growth of aggregate concentration.

Protein aggregation — in which misfolded proteins clump together to form large fibrils — has been implicated in many diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and type II diabetes. While the exact role these fibrils play in diseases isn’t fully understood, many of the current treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s target the aggregation process. However, finding the right treatment protocols for these drugs, which can be toxic in large doses, is challenging.

Recently, researchers [in Prof. L. Mahadevan group] developed a model to better understand how drugs inhibit the growth of protein fibrils, offering a guide to develop more effective strategies to target protein aggregation diseases. The researchers found that different drugs target different stages of protein aggregation and the timing of their administration plays a critical role in inhibiting fibril growth.

Continue reading "Using math to help treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases" by Lea Burrows on seas.harvard.edu, August 15, 2019. https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2019/08/using-math-to-help-treat-alzheimer-s-parkinson-s-and-other-diseases.

Also read the original article: Thomas C. T. Michaels, Christoph A. Weber, and L. Mahadevan, "Optimal control strategies for inhibition of protein aggregation," PNAS 116 (2019) https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1904090116.