Many neurodegenerative disorders are characterised by the deposition of abnormal protein aggregates in various parts of the brain. However, the events that trigger this phenomenon and the role these protein deposits play in disease progression are poorly understood. Extensive research has linked some of these diseases with genetic mutations. However, despite the valuable information obtained regarding the pathological processes, the list of genes associated with neurodegenerative disorders is far from being complete. To further contribute to the identification of disease-related genes, leading scientists in the field designed the EU-funded ‘Abnormal proteins in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders’ (Apopis) project. The ultimate aim was to identify genes involved in the pathology of neurodegenerative disorders, determine their biological functions and role in disease development. Substantial progress was achieved towards the delineation of the role of many genes in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders. Project partners addressed the lack of treatment options by improving current vaccination strategies for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To overcome the side-effects of amyloid-beta immunotherapy, scientists isolated B cells from immunised patients and produced a novel TAP-1 antibody with high affinity for amyloid-beta plaques. Testing of this antibody alongside novel monoclonal antibodies in a mouse model of AD showed a reduction of beta amyloid accumulation in the brains of treated animals. Collectively, these data suggested that amyloid-beta vaccination constitutes a promising therapeutic intervention for the treatment of AD patients. The Apopis study integrated 39 research groups across Europe to provide a better understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration, advance clinical detection and improve prevention and treatment of these disorders. The project’s deliverables overall have strong socioeconomic impact and are expected to improve the quality of life of numerous patients.
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8 February 2021