Enzyme Makes Women’s Brains More At Risk for Alzheimer’s – Medicine

(ANSA) – ROME, OCTOBER 05 – An enzyme, more present in the brains of women than in that of men, would make the former more susceptible to Alzheimer’s as it causes accumulation of toxic proteins inside the brain nerve cells. A study published in the scientific journal Cell, which could help in the development of new drugs for the disease, explains why it makes women more at risk of cognitive decline.

Women are affected by Alzheimer’s about twice as often as men. Why is not clear, but a possible explanation has been sought in the fact that women show increased deposition of the tau protein in the brain. The process of eliminating the excess occurs thanks to a balanced system of enzymes, the dysfunction of which can lead to an abnormal accumulation of tau. According to the results of the new study, greater activity of the enzyme USP11 (ubiquitin-specific peptidase 11), of which women express higher levels in the brain than men, is related to high levels of tau, as it inhibits its degradation and elimination.

Then the researchers, in one experiment, genetically eliminated USP11 in the brains of female mice, and observed that in this case they were protected from cognitive decline. They thus concluded that the excessive activity of the USP11 enzyme in the female gender determines their greater susceptibility to Alzheimer’s. “The good news is that USP11 is an enzyme and these can be inhibited pharmacologically,” said David Kang, a senior co-author of the disease at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, Ohio.

“We are particularly excited about this discovery because it provides a foundation for the development of neuroprotective drugs.”