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February 28, 2019
Like household clutter hiding a homeowner’s keys, a malfunctioning cleaning system in brain cells is being linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research. Improving the cellular cleaning system in lab animals makes Alzheimer’s symptoms nearly disappear, researchers say.
Researchers have discovered that humans and animals with Alzheimer’s show signs of compromised mitophagy, the process by which the body clears defective mitochondria, the energy systems of the cell. When researchers were able to improve mitophagy in animals, the symptoms nearly vanished.
“When the cleaning system does not work properly, there will be an accumulation of defective mitochondria in the brain cells,” says Vilhelm Bohr, author of the study and affiliate professor at the Center for Healthy Aging and National Institutes of Health. “And this may be really dangerous. At any rate, the poor cleaning system is markedly present in cells from both humans and animals with Alzheimer’s. And when we improve the cleaning in live animals, their Alzheimer’s symptoms almost disappear.”
Signs of dementia wane
After researchers boosted mitophagy in animals, the accumulation of the proteins tau and beta amyloid, which accumulate in Alzheimer’s and other states of dementia, slowed down, the researchers reported.
This research was conducted by an international team from the University of Copenhagen, National Institutes of Health, and the University of Oslo, among others, and published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The work presents a promising target – mitophagy – for potential cures and treatments for Alzheimer’s, which affects around 5.5 million Americans and is ranked as the sixth-leading cause of death.
Tissue helps tell the story
Researchers also looked at brain tissue samples from deceased Alzheimer’s patients. The samples showed higher-than normal concentrations of undersized and faulty mitochondria.
Brain tissue samples, such as the ones used in this work, are just one example of the human biospecimens we can provide to researchers through the iSpecimen Marketplace. Researchers can search the marketplace for tissues, biofluids and cells by myriad attributes, including diagnosis, (e.g., Alzheimer’s), patient demographics, medications, and past procedures.
Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking disease. Cellular decluttering constitutes an exciting possibility for progress. Researchers are hoping to move to human clinical trials in the near future.
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