Scientists are constantly trying to uncover the precise mechanisms which cause Alzheimer’s, hoping that an understanding will allow them to develop ways of protecting against this frightening disease.
A fundamental feature of Alzheimer’s Disease is the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain. These proteins form clusters of plaque that disrupt the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. Until recently the main protein associated with this disease was the protein beta-amyloid.
However, in a new study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers from several universities, including Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, determined that tao proteins are likely to be as important, if not more important, than beta amyloid proteins.
Although the brain contains a variety of cells, they fall into two categories: neurons and glial cells. Neurons allow information to be communicated to various parts of the brain, while glial cells support and protect neurons, as well as the connections between neurons, known as synapses.
Among neurons, there are two types: those which trigger communication, known as excitatory neurons, and those which inhibit the activity of the excitatory neurons, which are known as inhibitory neurons. In a healthy brain, these two types of neurons are in balance.
When studying tau protein accumulation in both mouse models and individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers noted that excitatory neurons were severely disrupted by the accumulation of tau proteins.
As the researchers investigated more deeply, they found that a particular gene, BAG3, was responsible for clearing tau proteins from the brain. They noted that the presence of this gene may provide the key to the susceptibility of Alzheimer’s Disease in certain individuals.
They also noted that BAG3 was found in much higher concentration in neurons than in glial cells; within neurons the highest concentrations were found in the inhibitory neuron cells.
This observation provides the first insight regarding the reason that tau cells seem to attack excitatory neurons: expression of the BAG3 gene prevents tau accumulation in inhibitory neurons.
Each day scientists are chipping away at the hidden causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Slowly, but surely, they are also beginning to devise new methods to treat Alzheimer’s. These methods focus on the precise way genes interact and the specific mechanisms and vulnerabilities that allow a toxic buildup of plaque in the brain.
The good news for us is that there is reason to remain optimistic that a cure for this devastating disease is on the horizon.
Until a cure is available, there is no better care possible for your loved one with Alzheimer’s than the care provided by Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ. We at Hamilton Grove are experts in handling all levels of cognitive impairment, from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
We have created a unique environment and care program specifically designed to address the needs of this population. Our Alzheimer’s Unit is situated in a separate, secure wing to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents. It offers a structured daily routine, mind-stimulating activities, excellent social interaction, with optimal patient independence in a calm and soothing atmosphere.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.