Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rescue of Alzheimer's memory deficit achieved by reducing 'excessive inhibition'

13.06.2014

A new drug target to fight Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by a research team led by Gong Chen, a Professor of Biology and the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences at Penn State University.

The discovery also has potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia and one for which no cure has yet been found. A scientific paper describing the discovery will be published in Nature Communications on 13 June 2014.


A new drug target to fight Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by a research team led by Gong Chen, a Professor of Biology and the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences at Penn State University. The discovery also has potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia and one for which no cure has yet been found. This image is a microscopic view showing high concentrations of the GABA neurotransmitter (red) in the reactive astrocytes (green) in a human brain with Alzheimer's disease.

Credit: Gong Chen lab, Penn State University

Chen's research was motivated by the recent failure in clinical trials of once-promising Alzheimer's drugs being developed by large pharmaceutical companies. "Billions of dollars were invested in years of research leading up to the clinical trials of those Alzheimer's drugs, but they failed the test after they unexpectedly worsened the patients' symptoms," Chen said.

The research behind those drugs had targeted the long-recognized feature of Alzheimer's brains: the sticky buildup of the amyloid protein known as plaques, which can cause neurons in the brain to die. "The research of our lab and others now has focused on finding new drug targets and on developing new approaches for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's disease," Chen explained.

"We recently discovered an abnormally high concentration of one inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brains of deceased Alzheimer's patients," Chen said. He and his research team found the neurotransmitter, called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), in deformed cells called "reactive astrocytes" in a structure in the core of the brain called the dentate gyrus. This structure is the gateway to hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical for learning and memory.

Chen's team found that the GABA neurotransmitter was drastically increased in the deformed versions of the normally large, star-shaped "astrocyte" cells which, in a healthy individual, surround and support individual neurons in the brain. "Our research shows that the excessively high concentration of the GABA neurotransmitter in these reactive astrocytes is a novel biomarker that we hope can be targeted in further research as a tool for the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease," Chen said.

Chen's team developed new analysis methods to evaluate neurotransmitter concentrations in the brains of normal and genetically modified mouse models for Alzheimer's disease (AD mice). "Our studies of AD mice showed that the high concentration of the GABA neurotransmitter in the reactive astrocytes of the dentate gyrus correlates with the animals' poor performance on tests of learning and memory," Chen said.

His lab also found that the high concentration of the GABA neurotransmitter in the reactive astrocytes is released through an astrocyte-specific GABA transporter, a novel drug target found in this study, to enhance GABA inhibition in the dentate gyrus. With too much inhibitory GABA neurotransmitter, the neurons in the dentate gyrus are not fired up like they normally would be when a healthy person is learning something new or remembering something already learned.

Importantly, Chen said, "After we inhibited the astrocytic GABA transporter to reduce GABA inhibition in the brains of the AD mice, we found that they showed better memory capability than the control AD mice. We are very excited and encouraged by this result, because it might explain why previous clinical trials failed by targeting amyloid plaques alone.

One possible explanation is that while amyloid plaques may be reduced by targeting amyloid proteins, the other downstream alterations triggered by amyloid deposits, such as the excessive GABA inhibition discovered in our study, cannot be corrected by targeting amyloid proteins alone. Our studies suggest that reducing the excessive GABA inhibition to the neurons in the brain's dentate gyrus may lead to a novel therapy for Alzheimer's disease. An ultimate successful therapy may be a cocktail of compounds acting on several drug targets simultaneously."

In addition to Chen, other members of the research team include Postdoctoral Scholar Zheng Wu and Graduate Researcher Ziyuan Guo at Penn State, and Marla Gearing at Emory University.

This research received support from the National Institutes of Health and Penn State University's Eberly College of Science Stem Cell Fund.

CONTACTS

Gong Chen: gongchen@psu.edu

Barbara Kennedy (PIO): science@psu.edu, (+1) 814 863 4682

IMAGES

A high-resolution image is online at http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2014-news/Chen6-2014

Barbara K. Kennedy | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Alzheimer's GABA astrocytes concentration deficit drugs inhibitory neurons proteins structure therapy

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Pathogenic bacteria hitchhiking to North and Baltic Seas?
22.07.2016 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Unconventional quasiparticles predicted in conventional crystals
22.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

Im Focus: A Peek into the “Birthing Room” of Ribosomes

Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis

A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...

Im Focus: New protocol enables analysis of metabolic products from fixed tissues

Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.

In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

Partner countries of FAIR accelerator meet in Darmstadt and approve developments

11.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

The Exception and its Rules

25.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Using Ultrashort Pulsed Laser Radiation to Process Fibre-Reinforced Components

25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

Added bacterial film makes new mortar resistant to water uptake

25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>