What causes Alzheimer’s? Initially, one might think that it is a result of age-related changes in the brain or environmental and lifestyle changes. One may also think that it is caused by a genetic predisposition to the disease. Personally, I thought Alzheimer’s was a result of poor health as one got older. Although these all may be true, a new study has found that Alzheimer’s Disease can be caused by a certain protein, or rather, a protein mutation. These new findings provide scientists with a way to detect and treat the disease in the long run.  Using multiple methods to analyze mitochondrial DNA, researchers found a mitochondria microprotein that is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. This protein, known as SHMOOSE is seen to have a role in the neurodegeneration of people, thus giving them an increased chance of Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, the researchers found that the microprotein is found in over a quarter of Europeans. The researchers of The Cohen Laboratory at the University of Southern California published their findings in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry. The journal states that the microprotein, SHMOOSE was discovered through the use of neuroimaging, mass spectrometry, and transcriptomic. All of these are methods of looking into the mitochondrial DNA and locating the mutated protein. According to the study, a mutation of the SHMOOSE microprotein has a connection to a higher risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. They also discovered that 25% of individuals with European ancestry have the mutated version of the protein. Dr. Pinchas Cohen says that the SHMOOSE mutation is a result of a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP. An SNP is essentially a change or alteration within a single nucleotide, in this case, the change resulted in the mutated SHMOOSE protein. Additionally, he states that the variant can guide ways to identify who is affected while also forming new medical treatments and preventative measures. In class, we learned about how proteins are created and coded for, and we also learned about how protein structure directly affects their function. Both of these concepts are directly seen in this study. Firstly, DNA is what codes for proteins, if the DNA or even the nucleotide is incorrect or altered, the protein would in turn also be incorrect or altered. This is seen directly through the SNP, the single change in the nucleotide entirely changed the protein creating the SHMOOSE protein. Next, the structure of the protein, the sequence of the amino acids, or just the overall composition of the protein entirely plays a role in the function and actions of the protein. For example, if the structure of a protein is compromised, so is the function. This is also directly seen in the study because the structure of the SHMOOSE protein was altered due to the SNP, its function was also altered. The altered function is that it would put people at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Another article speaks on the silver lining of the SHMOOSE protein. Because the protein is the approximate size of an insulin peptide, it could easily be administered into the human body for a positive effect. This means that the mutated protein could be used for treating Alzheimer’s Disease and increasing its therapeutic value. This idea is just one of many that venture into the field of precision-based medicine. In the case of Alzheimer’s the mutated SHMOOSE would be focused upon as a target area rather than the disease as a whole. I think that the use of SHMOOSE in a medical or therapeutic way would be risky at first in that it would likely be difficult for scientists to specifically target the way to treat it. What may be a safer option for those with the mutation could be to continue with tried and tested Alzheimer’s Disease treatments rather than immediately opting for something new. The new precision-based medicine method should undergo severe trials, examinations, and successes before it is widely implemented.


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