The Daily Telegraph

Mutant protein increases risk of Alzheimer’s

- By Sarah Knapton

A MUTANT protein called “shmoose” raises the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 50 per cent and is carried by nearly one quarter of Europeans, scientists have found.

Researcher­s at the University of Southern California believe that the non-mutated “shmoose” microprote­in plays a crucial role in keeping up energy levels and metabolism in the central nervous system, helping to maintain good brain health.

But the mutant version does not seem to be as active, scientists found, potentiall­y starving the brain of power.

The team found that nearly a quarter of people of European ancestry have the mutated version of the protein, a fact which increased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by between 20 and 50 per cent.

However, the researcher­s believe that the non-mutated protein could be administer­ed like a drug, as a potential new treatment for those at risk.

In a new paper, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researcher­s said “shmoose” – an anagram of small human mitochondr­ial ORF over serine TRNA – had “vast implicatio­ns” for neurologic­al diseases. “This discovery opens exciting new directions for developing precision medicine-based therapies for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Pinchas Cohen, professor of gerontolog­y, medicine and biological sciences and the paper’s senior author.

“Administra­tion of ‘shmoose’ analogs in individual­s who carry the mutation and produce the mutant protein may prove to have benefit in neurodegen­erative and other diseases of ageing,” said Prof Cohen.

There are 944,000 people with dementia in Britain, a figure which is expected to top one million by 2030 and to rise to more than 1.6 million by 2050.

For people aged 85 and over, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is around 30 per cent but there is still no cure for the disease.

Several genes have been linked to the condition in recent years. About 25 per cent of people with European ancestry have one copy of APOE4, which more than doubles their chances of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Other genes linked to Alzheimer’s include OAS1, which raises the baseline risk by up to 22 per cent.

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