Experimental Neuroprotective Therapy May Lead to Alzheimer's, Autism Treatments

Memory-enhancing neurological drug may eventually generate precise therapies for autism and Alzheimer's disease.

A new amino acid peptide could help determine how an activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP) acts differently in males and females, which may generate new treatments for autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

SKIP is a 4 amino acid peptide ADNP replacement therapy developed at Tel Aviv University. In a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers looked at the potential of SKIP to make a difference in nerve cell communication among male and female mice.

"We found a clear difference in ADNP's effect on male and female mice," said lead researcher Illana Gozes. "The movement of transported material through nerve cells in the brains of the tested mice was slower in males. This information is critical, because it can be used to design more efficient and successful clinical trials for neurological drug candidates, and hopefully develop precise therapies for ADNP-related diseases or conditions with special attention to gender differences."

When SKIP was introduced, researchers used MRI imaging to find accelerated microtubular function occurring in both sexes of the mice. However, the pace of the neutral transport that inhaled magnesium was significantly slower in males.

"The loss of protective proteins exposes cells to physical damage that eventually destroys them," Gozes said. “The new protein-protectant drug candidate SKIP, which is half the size of NAP, was found to increase and repair blocked nerve-cell transport and normalize it."

In social situations, researchers found SKIP normalized mouse behavior reactions, but these varied amongst the sexes.

"Normal male and female mice behaved very differently: Females were infrequently drawn toward new mice, whereas males were more frequently drawn to new mice,” Gozes said. “ADNP-deficient male and female mice both preferred the company of familiar mice. After SKIP was introduced, by intranasal administration, we saw that the female and male mice behaved like the ADNP-intact mice.

"When clinicians treat patients, they must look at gender. There may be a gender difference in the way certain nerves behave and the way the nerve cells communicate. ADNP is involved in this process. There are differences between the way men and women react to their environments, and differences at the molecular level may indicate that indeed there are differences between the very way men and women think."