Loss of Brain Connections in Alzheimer's Opens Treatment Possibility

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The recent discovery that brain cell connections are destroyed in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may facilitate new areas for research and treatment for the neurodegenerative condition.

Vladimir Sytnyk, PhD, of the University of New South Wales School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Sydney, Australia, and colleagues examined a brain protein known as neural cell adhesion molecule 2, or NCAM2. It is part of a class of molecules that physically connects the membranes of synapses and helps maintain these contacts between neurons.

After studying post-mortem brain tissue in people with and without Alzheimer’s, synaptic NCAM2 levels in the brain’s hippocampus were low in those with the disease, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Communications.

In mouse studies, it was also demonstrated that NCAM2 was broken down by toxic beta-amyloid protein, which builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have identified a new molecular mechanism which directly contributes to this synapse loss — a discovery we hope could eventually lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease and new treatments,” Sytnyk said in a statement. “It opens up a new avenue for research on possible treatments that can prevent the destruction of NCAM2 in the brain.”

Loss of Brain Connections in Alzheimer's Opens Treatment Possibility
Lower levels of a brain protein that facilitates communication between neurons were found in Alzheimer's patients.

A team of researchers led by University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, scientists has discovered how connections between brain cells are destroyed in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease — work that opens up a new avenue for research on possible treatments for the degenerative brain condition.

The team studied a protein in the brain called neural cell adhesion molecule 2, or NCAM2 - one of a family of molecules that physically connects the membranes of synapses and help stabilize these long lasting synaptic contacts between neurons.

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Using post-mortem brain tissue from people with and without the condition, they discovered that synaptic NCAM2 levels in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus were low in those with Alzheimer's disease.

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