Scientists have developed a blood test that may reveal changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The technique, tested so far only in mice, predicts the amount of amyloid plaque (formed from clumps of proteins that kill surrounding cells) in an animal’s brain. The research, detailed in a report in the current issue of the journal Science, holds promise for the development of predictive methods to diagnose the disease years ahead of the onset of clinical symptoms.
David Holtzman of the Washington University School of Medicine and colleagues worked with mice that had been genetically engineered to develop an Alzheimer’s-like disease. They measured the amount of amyloid-b (Ab) protein in the animals’ blood and found that it did not correlate to the extent of plaque formation in the brain, which is also the case for humans. But when they treated 49 animals with an artificial antibody known as m266, they found that their levels of Ab increased dramatically within as little as five minutes. Moreover, the increased blood levels correlated with the amount of amyloid in two regions of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s, the hippocampus and the cingulate cortex. According to study co-author Ronald B. DeMattos of Washington University School of Medicine, "a simple injection of m266 altered the metabolism of Ab and unmasked important correlations with brain pathology."
Whether the results will apply to humans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease remains unclear. Even if the test does work, it can only diagnose patients who have already started to accumulate amyloid. But as Holtzman notes, "such a test also could distinguish individuals suffering from dementia caused by Alzheimer’s from those with other types of dementia, and may help us evaluate an individual’s response to particular medical therapies."
Sarah Graham | Scientific American
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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