Prof. Neville Vassallo (Dept. of Physiology and Biochemistry) was invited to present his research in a keynote lecture at the “5th International Symposium on Pathomechanisms of Amyloid Diseases”, held from 5 - 7 September 2023 at the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology, Bordeaux, France.
The conference brought together top international experts in the field, who presented cutting-edge research in the amyloid field. The term “amyloid” refers to the abnormal deposition of aggregated protein in body tissues and organs that occurs in a wide array of human diseases, including common conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
In his talk, Prof. Vassallo presented the latest data on the effectiveness of small-molecule compounds in preventing the aggregation of a protein known as the “islet amyloid polypeptide” (IAPP). IAPP forms amyloid deposits in the pancreas of over 90% of individuals suffering from T2DM, a complex metabolic illness impacting over 10% of the Maltese population and tens of millions worldwide. Prof. Vassallo described how research by his team at the University of Malta, which includes Dr Adam El Saghir and Ms Raina Marie Seychell, has identified a drug-like molecule bearing a diphenyl-pyrazole (DPP) scaffold with catechol-like moieties, as a powerful inhibitor of human IAPP aggregation. Moreover, the DPP compound preserved the integrity of mitochondria, which are central for the mechanism of insulin release by the pancreatic islet cells. The results of such research could thus potentially advance therapeutic application of these compounds in T2DM patients.
Other interesting topics presented at the conference include the use of NMR in the study of protein aggregation (Prof. Christian Griesinger, Max Planck Institute and University of Göttingen, Germany), the study of IAPP aggregation in animal models (Prof. Tessa Sinnige, Utrecht University, The Netherlands), advanced imaging of human brains with Parkinson’s disease (Dr. Amanda Lewis, EPFL, Switzerland), and targeting protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases (Prof. Michele Vendruscolo, University of Cambridge, UK).
Financial support for Prof. Vassallo’s research was acknowledged from the Malta Council for Science & Technology, through its Research Excellence Programme “DIAMYLOID” (REP-2021-016).