Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, affect the brains and other tissues of patients. The death of neuronal cells inside the brains and other tissues causes several problems for the patient. Common symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases include, among others, memory loss and movement disorders. While the exact causes of these diseases are currently unknown, one common factor between them is the accumulation of toxic protein deposits: α-synuclein in Parkinson's disease and amyloid beta and Tau proteins in Alzheimer's disease.
There is no known cure for these progressive diseases. Current treatments may help in alleviating some of the symptoms, but eventually these diseases lead to early loss of life of the affected individuals. As the general population of the world gets progressively older, the need for effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases keep increasing, as these diseases occur most commonly in the elderly. We seek to tackle the problem of neurodegenerative diseases by targeting prolyl oligopeptidase.
Prolyl oligopeptidase (PREP, also called POP or PEP) is a serine protease enzyme, which is mostly located in the brain, but also in other tissues. It has been found that PREP accelerates the accumulation of toxic protein aggregates, but the mechanism is not fully understood. Our laboratory focuses on studying PREP in more detail to reveal the exact mechanism by which the effects on protein aggregation occur. Additionally, we have found small molecule hit compounds which decrease accumulation of harmful proteins and enhance their natural clearance from affected tissues in cells and animal models. These effects are so prominent that we are seeking a commercial partner to help us in progressing these compounds towards human trials.