New Direction in Alzheimer’s Research May Help Identify Origin of Disease

New Direction in Alzheimer’s Research May Help Identify Origin of Disease
The study of axonal transport, the system responsible for transporting vital molecules and signals from one nerve cell to another, may lead scientists to the origin of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at the University at Buffalo, New York. Malfunctions in this transport system create “traffic jams,” and these may be the start of the formation of toxic plaques — the buildup of beta-amyloid proteins that are one of the most characteristic traits of Alzheimer’s. Over the past 20 years, Alzheimer’s research has been focused on the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in patients’ brains. Many researchers believe that blocking the formation or removing these plaques may help in slowing disease progression. But several clinical trials based on these approaches failed, and some researchers are now questioning this premise. They are suggesting other hypotheses to explain the origin of Alzheimer’s that may potentially help in the development of new treatments. Such is the case of Shermali Gunawardena, PhD, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Buffalo. Her team is focused on the role of presenilin, a protein involved in the generation of beta-amyloid plaques, in axonal transport. “We are looking at processes that occur before cell death, before you start to see plaques in the brain,” Gunawardena said in a press release. “A lot of the treatments being developed for Alzheimer’s are targeting beta-amyloid, but maybe we should be targeting processes that happen earlier on, before plaques are formed.” Ye
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