Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers find cause of frontotemporal dementia

17.07.2006
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) is the second major form of dementia. Under the direction of Christine Van Broeckhoven, researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) affiliated to the University of Antwerp have recently discovered that the progranulin growth factor plays an important biological role in the development of this form of dementia. Because progranulin is known primarily for its role in tumor formation, this research result is very surprising. Although progranulin’s proper role in the brain is not yet known, it may well be responsible for the survival of brain cells, because FTD patients have a shortage of this growth factor. The new finding predicts that progranulin might also play a role in other types of brain diseases in which brain cells die off - such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Frontotemporal dementia

After Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia is the most prevalent form of dementia in patients younger than 65. FTD affects the frontal lobe, causing the brain tissue to die off. The frontal lobe is the foremost part of the brain and accounts for about 30% of the brain’s mass. Among other things, the frontal lobe is involved in regulating behavior, movement and mood, and is responsible for cognitive functions like memory and speech. So, FTD is clinically characterized by changes in personality and, in a later stage, loss of cognitive functions.

Looking for the needle in the haystack

Genetic research has previously shown that FTD is caused by a defect in chromosome 17. Chromosome 17 is the carrier of the tau protein’s hereditary code, and defects in this protein cause tau-positive FTD. However, there is another form of FTD that occurs much more frequently than tau-positive FTD - namely, ubiquitin-positive FTD (FTDU). Patients with FTDU do not have a defect in the tau protein, but in another protein in chromosome 17. Christine Van Broeckhoven‘s research team has now identified this protein: progranulin. In order to substantiate this discovery, the group worked intensively with neurologists from university memory clinics in Antwerp, Leuven, and Ghent. Genetic analyses of the DNA from FTDU families identifies defects that cause a shortage of progranulin. Progranulin is known in cancer research, where a surplus of this protein leads to tumors. What it does in the brain, and how it supports brain cells, is not yet known.

An unexpected turn

The biological role of progranulin in the formation of FTD provides a totally new insight into how brain cells die off. Van Broeckhoven’s team’s research indicates that the quantity of progranulin in the brain is important for the brain cells’ survival. The hereditary defects that the researchers have found in FTD patients cause only 50% of the protein to be produced, because only one copy of the gene is active. Therefore, FTD patients produce less progranulin than healthy individuals. It has already been shown that too much progranulin leads to cancer - now, these researchers are revealing that too little progranulin underlies FTD.

New diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities

This discovery does not directly result in a new remedy for FTD patients - a lot more research is needed for that. But this finding does offer the prospect of a new treatment for FTD and possibly also for other diseases of the brain that entail the dying off of brain cells - like Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease. Given that a deficiency of progranulin leads to FTD, administration of this protein could offer a simple solution. However, the trick will be to administer the right quantity, because too much progranulin leads to the formation of tumors. A fine line to navigate! Thanks to this finding, though, upon a doctor’s request, a genetic study can be done on FTD patients and their family members if they so desire.

Sooike Stoops | alfa
Further information:
http://www.vib.be

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator
23.02.2018 | University of Turku

nachricht Minimising risks of transplants
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>