Study identifies toxic key to Alzheimer’s disease memory loss

Jun 26, 2008

Using new scientific techniques, scientists have unlocked the cascade of molecular events that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The scientific findings published in the latest edition of Nature Medicine suggest a potential new target for the development of drug therapies to fight the irreversible and degenerative disease which affects some 29.8 million people worldwide. The total worldwide societal cost of dementia was estimated at somewhere in the region of US$315.4 billion in 2005.

Alzheimer's disease is marked by the build-up of plaques consisting of beta-amyloid protein fragments, as well as abnormal tangles of tau protein found inside brain cells. Early in the disease, Alzheimer's pathology is first observed in the hippocampus, the part of the brain important to memory, and gradually spreads to the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain.

The team of Irish and international researchers have identified that the accumulation of a particular protein (called amyloid ß-protein - Aß) in the brain initiates Alzheimer’s disease and that it directly alters the structure and function of brain cells. The findings place a significant emphasis on the development of new therapeutic strategies targeted at the reduction of the formation of Aß as opposed to the reduction of the plaque burden associated with the disease.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a major personal and societal tragedy,” says Professor Ciaran Regan from the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, University College Dublin, one of the co-authors of the report. “The disease progression is torturously long and debilitating, extorting a huge emotional and economic cost.”

“The onset of the disease is insidious with the earliest symptoms often manifested as subtle and intermittent deficits of episodic memory,” explains Professor Dominic Walsh, associate Professor of Pharmacology at the UCD Conway Institute, University College Dublin, another co-author of the report.

“Our findings support the growing theory that Alzheimers’s disease memory deficits may result from loss of dendritic spines and that this process is mediated by amyloid ß–protein (Aß) oligomers, not monomer or plaque Aß as previously considered.”

Source: University College Dublin

Explore further: An explanation of wild birds' role in avian flu outbreak

Related Stories

Report details benefits of investment in basic research

8 hours ago

Last year was a notable one for scientific achievements: In 2014, European researchers discovered a fundamental new particle that sheds light on the origins of the universe, and the European Space Agency ...

Recommended for you

An explanation of wild birds' role in avian flu outbreak

1 hour ago

Wild birds are believed to be behind the first major widespread outbreak of bird flu in the United States, with the virus confirmed in the animals in 10 states. Here are some questions and answers about how wild birds remain ...

Gastroenterology Special Issue confirms: You are what you eat

4 hours ago

Patients are always interested in understanding what they should eat and how it will impact their health. Physicians are just as interested in advancing their understanding of the major health effects of foods and food-related ...

Gonorrhoea and syphilis in Norway in 2014

6 hours ago

Reported cases of gonorrhea continue to increase in Norway, both among men who have sex with men (MSM) and among heterosexuals. The increase of gonorrhea among heterosexual women was particularly significant. ...

User comments : 0

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.