High Calcium Levels in Mitochondria Cause Neuronal Death in Alzheimer’s, Study Shows

High Calcium Levels in Mitochondria Cause Neuronal Death in Alzheimer’s, Study Shows
Abnormal levels of calcium in the mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse, may lead to neuronal death in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to researchers at Temple University's Center for Translational Medicine. Scientists presented their study, "Imbalance of calcium in a cell's energy factory may drive Alzheimer's disease,” at the 61st Meeting of the Biophysical Society, held Feb. 11-15 in New Orleans. Calcium is a crucial signaling messenger in the brain, which is why its levels are tightly regulated within neurons. Previous studies have shown that calcium levels in the mitochondria control energy production, and that too much calcium may lead to neuronal death. But the specific relationship between mitochondrial calcium and cell death in Alzheimer’s remained elusive. Using brain samples from Alzheimer's patients, researchers observed very low levels of mitochondrial sodium/calcium exchanger, the protein that transports calcium out of the mitochondria in neurons. That deficiency means that calcium ions are trapped inside the mitochondria after entering this organelle, where they begin to accumulate. The toxic increase in calcium inside the mitochondria disrupts the normal functioning of the mechanisms that produce energy, triggering  excessive levels of oxidant molecules, which damage the mitochondria and neurons. Low levels of the transporter are therefore linked to increased mitochondrial impairment and cell death, contributing
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