Alzheimer’s disease can be caused by deposits of beta-amyloid—a faulty protein found in the brain, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Yale University.
Fifty years ago, scientists first discovered that beta-amyloid deposits in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients were surrounded with a high amount of lysosomes—small systems that digest and dispose cellular garbage. Health officials concluded that they were there to assist in clearing away that faulty protein.
The team at Yale University, however, discovered that lysosomes surrounding the beta-amyloid are faulty; in fact, rather than working to eliminate Alzheimer’s, they may be contributing to the disease or making it worse. The reason being that lysosomes have high levels of beta-secretase, which are the enzymes that can trigger production of the beta-amyloid protein.
Researchers note that the faulty lysosomes are unable to break down the enzyme because they are not fully developed. To advance, they have to travel along the axons, but the beta-amyloid deposits block them, which results in more beta-secretase—triggering even more beta-amyloid.
The team plans to conduct animal studies to analyze whether or not altering genes to help the faulty lysosomes digest beta-secretase can help prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings from this study can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online on June 29, 2015.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately five million Americans aged 65 and older were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. Nearly 14 million people are expected to suffer from the disease by 2050.
Source for Today’s Article:
Paddock, C., “Faulty cellular ‘garbage disposal’ implicated in Alzheimer’s,” Medical News Today web site, July 2, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/296207.php.