Unraveling Alzheimer’s: New Study Documents How Brain Cells Go Bad
In a first-of-its-kind study, UNC researchers show how a damaging cascade of events inside brain cells – and related to Alzheimer’s disease – can be stopped or reversed.
In the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, there are abnormal deposits of amyloid beta protein and tau protein, and swarms of activated immune cells. But scientists do not fully understand how these three major factors combine to drive the disease. Now, UNC School of Medicine and National Institutes of Health researchers have untangled the mystery in lab experiments to reveal why one Alzheimer’s drug currently in development shows promise and how other therapies might reverse the disease process.
Led by Todd Cohen, PhD, assistant professor of neurology, UNC scientists used human cell cultures to show how amyloid beta can trigger a dramatic inflammatory response in immune cells and how that interaction damages neurons. Then they showed how that kind of neuron damage leads to the formation of bead-like structures filled with abnormal tau protein. Similar bead-like structures are known to form in the brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
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