Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have made new discoveries about a “Pac-Man enzyme” that could help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Insulin-degrading enzyme, otherwise known as IDE, is shaped like a clamshell and opens and shuts similar to the Pac-Man character. The enzyme opens and closes around amyloid plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease, “gobbling up the protein inside.” Researchers at the Florida-based Mayo Clinic have discovered a way to speed up the activity of the Pac-Man enzyme, increasing the rate of breakdown and hopefully slowing the progression of the disease.

“The amyloid protein that forms plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s has long been a target for researchers trying to develop new treatments. There are different approaches to tackling the build-up of this protein, like blocking it from forming or breaking it down,” said Alzheimer’s Research Trust CEO Rebecca Wood. “This fascinating technique, using the ‘Pac-Man’ enzyme, suggests it may be possible to help the body break amyloid down. The work is at very early stages in the laboratory, but every avenue must be explored. With more research, this study could lead us towards the treatments we so desperately need.”

Recognition of IDE as the “Pac-Man enzyme” may be a testament to the mainstreaming of videogames in the collective consciousness but it’s not the only one: The Sonic hedgehog homolog is a protein believed to be related to the development of some cancers while Pikachurin is a “dystroglycan-interacting protein which has an essential role in the precise interactions between the photoreceptor ribbon synapse and the bipolar dendrites.”

via: Joystiq

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