Novel Nanodevices Could Stop Alzheimer's in Its Track

The nano-sized devices capture dangerous peptides before they can self-assemble.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Alzheimer's disease is a debilitating, devastating disease that is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers are always on the prowl for ways to cure or stop its spread, and now some may just have found a solution.


Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, along with collaborators from the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a treatment that may prove successful against this tricky disease.

Stopping the peptides

In those affected by Alzheimer’s, a type of plaque, made of molecules called β-amyloid (Aβ) peptides, builds up in the brain and results in the loss of neural connectivity and cell death. Researchers speculate if they can stop the peptides from forming these dangerous plaques, they can also freeze the development of Alzheimer’s.

Now, this team of researchers has designed a nano-sized device that captures the peptides before they can self-assemble. “We’ve taken building blocks from nanotechnology and biology to engineer a high-capacity ​‘cage’ that traps the peptides and clears them from the brain,” said Elena Rozhkova, scientist, Center for Nanoscale Materials.

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"The β-amyloid peptides arise from the breakdown of an amyloid precursor protein, a normal component of brain cells,” further explained Rosemarie Wilton, a molecular biologist in Argonne’s Biosciences division. In a healthy brain, these discarded peptides are eliminated.”

However, in Alzheimer’s brains, these peptides are not eliminated. This gives them the opportunity to self-assemble into destructive plaques.

The idea is that, eventually, a slurry of our nanodevices could collect the peptides as they fall away from the cells — before they get a chance to aggregate,” added Rozhkova, a scientist at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

The studies the researchers undertook with these nano-devices are published in the April issue of Advanced Functional Materials.

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