In the Feb. 7 Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and colleagues describe how isoflurane may set off a process in which A-beta generation and apoptosis interact with and magnify each other. Since this work was done in cell cultures, it is unknown whether the findings reflect a possible effect of the anesthetic on human brains.
"Our studies have shown that isoflurane may induce a vicious cycle of apoptosis, amyloid-beta generation, and further rounds of apoptosis leading to cell death," says Zhongcong Xie, MD, PhD, of the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MGH-MIND), the study's lead author. "If future studies support these findings, they suggest that caution be used in choosing this anesthetic for elderly patients, who already are at increased risk for Alzheimer's and for postoperative cognitive dysfunction." Xie is also associated with the MGH Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care.
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by plaques within the brain of amyloid-beta protein (A-beta), which is toxic to brain cells. A-beta is formed when the larger amyloid precursor protein (APP) is clipped by two enzymes -- beta-secretase, also known as BACE, and gamma-secretase -- to release the A-beta fragment. Normal processing of APP by an enzyme called alpha-secretase produces an alternative, non-toxic protein.
Some studies have indicated that general anesthesia may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. It also is known that a small but significant number of surgical patients experience a form of dementia in the postoperative period, but there is insufficient evidence of a direct connection between anesthesia and the risk of dementia. Previous articles -- including a recent report from the same research team -- have shown that isoflurane increases both A-beta generation and apoptosis in several types of cultured cells. The current study was designed to investigate the relationship between isoflurane-induced apoptosis and A-beta generation.
In a series of experiments, the researchers first found that applying isoflurane to cultured neural cells increased the activation of the enzyme caspase -- a key player in a pathway leading to apoptosis -- with no change in A-beta generation or APP processing. When they applied isoflurane to neural cells that express APP and had been treated with a caspase inhibitor, the expected changes in APP processing and A-beta generation were significantly reduced, indicating that caspase activation is essential to the pathway leading to A-beta generation and aggregation.
The researchers also found that isoflurane appears to raise levels of the A-beta-releasing enzymes BACE and gamma secretase and that generation of A-beta plaques further increases isoflurane-induced caspase activation. In addition, adding A-beta to neuronal cells that do not express APP also increased caspase activation in response to isoflurane. Overall, the study's results define molecular pathways by which isoflurane induces deposition of A-beta, both directly and via caspase activation, and by which A-beta deposits lead to further caspase activation and apoptosis.
"Even though our findings and those from other studies suggest that isoflurane may affect Alzheimer's pathogenesis, these experiments were performed in cultured cells only," says Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, director of the MGH-MIND Genetics and Aging Research Unit and senior author of the current paper. "We need to conduct in vivo studies before we can determine whether these results might be relevant to the development of delirium or Alzheimer's disease in human patients." Tanzi is a professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, where Xie is an assistant professor of Anesthesia. The researchers also plan to investigate whether other anesthetic agents may produce the same results seen with isoflurane, which is the only anesthetic tested in previous studies.
Sue McGreevey | EurekAlert!
The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons
The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences