Early Alzheimers disease may be precipitated by a “traffic jam” within neurons that causes swelling and prevents proper transport of proteins and structures in the cells, according to new studies by Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers.
In mouse models of Alzheimers disease and in human brain samples from people with the disease, researchers observed a characteristic breakdown in neurons that appears to prevent the normal movement of critical proteins to the communications centers of the nerve cells. In a vicious cycle, the traffic jam also could increase production of an abnormal protein that clogs neurons, leading to their failure and eventual death.
The researchers said their findings could provide information that might be used to develop drugs to preserve the molecular transport system and thus the viability of brain cells otherwise lost in Alzheimers. The findings also could ultimately lead to distinctive markers of early Alzheimers disease that could be used in early diagnostic tests for the disorder, they said.
Jim Keeley | EurekAlert!
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