A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic has discovered a defect in a brain signaling pathway that they say may be responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The discovery could spur development of drugs to “fix” the defect.
Lead investigator Guojun Bu, PhD, and colleagues at Mayo’s Department of Neuroscience in Jacksonville, Florida, found that the defect leads to low levels of a protein — lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6 (LRP6) — that controls the production of beta-amyloid. It also impacts communication between neurons. Both have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The pathway impacted, Wnt signaling, has a significant role in cell survival and synaptic activity — the latter involves sending electrical and chemical signals for learning and memory. When this pathway is not functioning correctly, it can lead to many types of diseases, the researchers reported in Neuron.
Resaerchers found that mice without LRP6 had impaired Wnt signaling, cognitive impairment, and high levels of beta-amyloid. This was confirmed by analyzing postmortem brain tissue from Alzheimer’s patients who also had low LRP6 levels.
“Identifying small molecule compounds to restore LRP6 and the Wnt pathway, without inducing side effects, may help prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease,” Bu said, according to Medical News Today. “This is a really exciting new strategy — a new and fresh approach.”
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks, according to the National Institute on Aging. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first…
Exactly what causes Alzheimer’s is unclear, which is primarily why scientists have yet to find a cure for the disease. But could this soon change? Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, have identified a defect in a brain signaling pathway that they believe contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s, which could lead to disease prevention strategies or treatments for its early stages.
The Mayo Clinic team found that low levels of a protein that regulates beta-amyloid production and nerve cell communication interferes with signaling in the Wnt pathway — known to be important for embryonic development, cell survival and synaptic activity crucial for memory and learning.