The cause and therapy of neurodegenerative diseases remain unsolved puzzles. These diseases are correlated with presence of beta sheet-rich amyloid assemblies. Here, I derive and assemble puzzle pieces to obtain a loose end-tying hypothesis for cause with direct implications for therapy. I use the following extrapolations to find connectable puzzle pieces: (a) the traditional extrapolation that amyloid/amyloid precursors cause disease, (b) a recent extrapolation that amyloid-forming proteins, some of which are virus protein homologs, are components of an empirically obscure innate immune system that counters insults, including those by both viruses and bacteria, (c) a new extrapolation that various insults produce assemblies with structural features in common and that amyloid-forming, innate immune system proteins recognize these features and, then, counter insults by co-assembly, (d, 1) a second new extrapolation that beta sheet is a common structural feature and is extended during insult-neutralizing co-assembly and (d, 2) an appendix, derived from studies of phages T3 and T4, that most insult-produced assemblies are obscure to current biochemical analysis. The hypothesis is the following. One function of amyloid-forming proteins is non-classical innate immunity to biological insults. This immunity works via beta sheet-extending co-assembly of amyloid-forming proteins with beta sheet-containing insult products. For example, co-assembly with beta sheet-containing viral assembly intermediates inhibits virus production. Amyloid-forming proteins cause neurodegenerative disease when errant, typically overproduced. Other innate immunity systems sometimes exacerbate symptoms. This hypothesis suggests the following therapy, based on manipulating Nature's chemistry. First, conduct directed evolution to obtain low-pathogenicity, chronic symptom-producing viruses with assembly intermediates that co-assemble with and destabilize both amyloid and amyloid sub-assemblies. Then, infect patients with these viruses.
- Directed evolution
- Innate immune systems
- Protein structure
- Viral assembly intermediates, obscure
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