Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Single-neuron observations mark steps in Alzheimer's disease

20.04.2012
Multiple disease-related changes progress in parallel through distinct stages

Studying a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, neuroscientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen have observed correlations between increases in both soluble and plaque-forming beta-amyloid – a protein implicated in the disease process – and dysfunctional developments on several levels: individual cortical neurons, neuronal circuits, sensory cognition, and behavior.


These are microscopic images of a brain section (bottom: overview. top: enlarged view of the visual cortex), obtained from an APP23xPS45 Alzheimer mouse, in which the beta-amyloid plaques are labeled with Thioflavin-S. Credit: Konnerth lab, TU Muenchen

Their results, published in Nature Communications, show that these changes progress in parallel and that, together, they reveal distinct stages in Alzheimer's disease with a specific order in time.

In addition to its well known, devastating effects on memory and learning, Alzheimer's disease can also impair a person's sense of smell or vision. Typically these changes in sensory cognition only show themselves behaviorally when the disease is more advanced. A new study sheds light on what is happening in the brain throughout the disease process, specifically with respect to the part of the cerebral cortex responsible for integrating visual information. A team led by Prof. Arthur Konnerth, a Carl von Linde Senior Fellow of the TUM Institute for Advanced Study, has observed Alzheimer's-related changes in the visual cortex at the single-cell level.

Using a technique called two-photon calcium imaging, the researchers recorded both spontaneous and stimulated signaling activity in cortical neurons of living mice: transgenic mice carrying mutations that cause Alzheimer's disease in humans, and wild-type mice as a control group. By observing how neuronal signaling responded to a special kind of vision test – in which a simple grating pattern of light and dark bars moves in front of the mouse's eye – the scientists could characterize the visual circuit as being more or less "tuned" to specific orientations and directions of movement.

Konnerth explains, "Like many Alzheimer's patients, the diseased mice have impairments in their ability to discriminate visual objects. Our results provide important new insights on the cause that may underlie the impaired behavior, by identifying in the visual cortex a fraction of neurons with a strongly disturbed function." And within this group, the researchers discovered, there are two subsets of neurons – both dysfunctional, but in completely different ways. One subset, thought to be the first neurons to degenerate, showed no activity at all; the other showed a pathologically high level of activity, rendering these neurons incapable of properly sensing objects in the mouse's environment. "While around half of the neurons in the visual cortex were disturbed in one way or the other, roughly half responded normally," notes Christine Grienberger, a doctoral candidate in Konnerth's institute and first author of this paper. "That could have significant implications for future research in the field of Alzheimer's disease, as our findings raise the question of whether future work only needs to target this population of neurons that are disturbed in their function."

The in vivo single-neuron experiments were carried out for three age groups, corresponding to different stages of this progressive, degenerative disease. The results were correlated with other measurements, including soluble beta-amyloid levels and the density of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain tissue. The researchers' findings show for the first time a progressive decline of function in cortical circuits. "An important conclusion from this study," Konnerth says, "is that the Alzheimer's disease-related changes on all levels – including behavior, cortical circuit dysfunction, and the density of amyloid plaques in diseased brains – progress in parallel in a distinct temporal order. In the future, the identification of such stages in patients may help researchers pinpoint stage-specific and effective therapies, with reduced levels of side effects."

This research was supported by the German Excellence Initiative (TUM-IAS, CIPSM); the German Research Foundation (DFG, IRTG 1373); ERAnet; and the Friedrich Schiedel Foundation.

Original publication:
Staged decline of neuronal function in vivo in an animal model of Alzheimer's disease
Christine Grienberger, Nathalie L. Rochefort, Helmuth Adelsberger, Horst A. Henning, Daniel N. Hill, Julia Reichwald, Matthias Staufenbiel, and Arthur Konnerth
Nature Communications, April 10, 2012.
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1783
Contact:
Prof. Arthur Konnerth
Institute for Neuroscience
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Biedersteinerstr. 29, 80802 Munich, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)89 4140 3351
E-Mail: arthur.konnerth@lrz.tum.de
Web: http://www.ifn.me.tum.de/new/konnerth.html
Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) is one of Europe's leading universities. It has roughly 460 professors, 9000 academic and non-academic staff, and 31,000 students. It focuses on the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences, medicine, and economic sciences. After winning numerous awards, it was selected as an "Elite University" in 2006 by the Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The university's global network includes an outpost with a research campus in Singapore. TUM is dedicated to the ideal of a top-level research-based entrepreneurial university.

Patrick Regan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tum.de

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New study points the way to therapy for rare cancer that targets the young
22.11.2017 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Penn study identifies new malaria parasites in wild bonobos
21.11.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

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....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

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...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

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...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>