Scientists may know how Alzheimer’s kills neurons – 09/15/2023 – Science

Scientists may know how Alzheimer’s kills neurons – 09/15/2023 – Science

Scientists in the United Kingdom and Belgium believe they have finally understood how brain cells die in Alzheimer’s disease. For decades, this has been a mystery and a source of intense scientific debate.

In an article published in the journal Science, the team associated the abnormal proteins that accumulate in the brain with “necroptosis” — a form of cellular suicide.

The findings were described as “interesting” and “exciting” as they pave the way for new ideas for treating the disease.

New clues

The loss of brain cells, neurons, leads to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, including memory loss.

Inside the brains of people with the disease, there is an accumulation of abnormal proteins called amyloid and TAU.

But scientists had failed to understand these key features of the disease.

That’s what researchers at the UK’s Institute of Dementia Research at College London and KU Leuven in Belgium think is happening now.

They say that abnormal amyloid begins to accumulate in the spaces between neurons, leading to brain inflammation — something that is harmful to neurons. This would start to change your internal chemistry.

Tangles of TAU begin to emerge and brain cells begin to produce a specific molecule, called MEG3, which causes their death through necroptosis.

Necroptosis is one of the methods our body normally uses to eliminate unwanted cells as new cells are produced.

The brain cells survived when the team managed to block MEG3.

“This is a very important and interesting discovery,” researcher Bart De Strooper, from the UK’s Institute of Dementia Research, told the BBC.

“For the first time we have a clue about how and why neurons die in Alzheimer’s disease. There has been a lot of speculation over the last 30 to 40 years, but no one has been able to identify the mechanisms,” said Strooper.

These answers came from experiments in which human brain cells were transplanted into the brains of genetically modified mice.

The animals were programmed to produce large amounts of abnormal amyloid.

Recently, drugs that eliminate amyloid from the brain have been successfully developed, marking the first treatments ever created to slow the destruction of brain cells.


Professor De Strooper says the discovery that blocking the MEG3 molecule can postpone the death of brain cells could pave the way for an “entirely new line of drug development”. However, this will take years of research.

University of Edinburgh professor Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, said “this is an interesting paper.”

She says the study “addresses one of the fundamental gaps in Alzheimer’s research.”

“These results are fascinating and will be important for advancement in this field.”

However, she emphasized that “many steps are needed” before we know whether the findings can be used as an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Susan Kohlhaas, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the findings were “exciting” but were still at an early stage.

“This discovery is important because it points to new mechanisms of cell death in Alzheimer’s disease that we did not previously understand and may pave the way for new treatments to slow or even stop the progression of the disease in the future,” he said.

The original text was published here.

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