Researchers find new piece in Alzheimer's puzzle

February 25, 2009

Yale researchers have filled in a missing gap on the molecular road map of Alzheimer's disease. In the Feb. 26 issue of the journal Nature, the Yale team reports that cellular prion proteins trigger the process by which amyloid-beta peptides block brain function in Alzheimer's patients.

"It has been a black box," said Stephen M. Strittmatter, senior author of the study and the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and director of Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair at the Yale School of Medicine. "We have known that amyloid-beta is bad for the brain, but we have not known exactly how amyloid-beta does bad things to neurons."

After an extensive gene expression analysis, the first step in amyloid-beta damage appears to involve cellular prion proteins. These proteins are normally harmless and exist within all cells, but on rare occasions they change shape and cause notorious prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt- Jacob disease, or its well-known variant, mad cow disease.

When the Yale team searched hundreds of thousands of candidates for potential disease-mediating receptors for the specific amyloid-beta form known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease, the most likely candidate was cellular prion proteins. It seems that amyloid-beta peptides latch onto these cellular prion proteins and precipitate the damage in brain cells.

"They start the cascade that make neurons sick" said Strittmatter, a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience.

Since these cellular prion proteins act at an early stage of disease development, the receptors make a promising target for new Alzheimer's therapies, Strittmatter said.

The study does not suggest that the conversion of cellular prion proteins to an infectious agent occurs in Alzheimer's disease, Strittmatter noted. However, the Nature paper does suggest that the role of usually harmless cellular prion proteins in common neurodegenerative diseases should be studied more rigorously, he said.

Source: Yale University

Explore further: Prion proteins play powerful role in survival, evolution of wild yeast strains

Related Stories

Cellular memory of stressful situations

January 28, 2015

Stress is unhealthy. The cells use therefore a variety of mechanisms to deal with stress and avert its immediate threat. However, certain stressful situations leave marks that go beyond the immediate response; some even seem ...

Paleontologist presents origin of life theory

October 29, 2013

It has baffled humans for millennia: how did life begin on planet Earth? Now, new research from a Texas Tech University paleontologist suggests it may have rained from the skies and started in the bowels of hell.

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mercury_01
5 / 5 (1) Feb 25, 2009
Researchers find new piece in Alzheimer's puzzle...-
And then promptly forget where they put it and what they were looking for.
menkaur
not rated yet Feb 26, 2009
Researchers find new piece in Alzheimer's puzzle...-
And then promptly forget where they put it and what they were looking for.

it seems, it's about Alzheimer's....

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.