Brain Metabolism of Hibernating Hamsters May Reveal Novel Therapeutic Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease

Brain Metabolism of Hibernating Hamsters May Reveal Novel Therapeutic Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease
Upon hibernation, the brains of Syrian hamsters undergo metabolic changes that involve the phosphorylation of tau protein — a hallmark of Alzheimers' disease. However, this process is rapidly reversed upon waking and understanding it could lead to the development of new therapies for Alzheimer's, a study suggests. The study, “Metabolomic Study of Hibernating Syrian Hamster Brains: In Search of Neuroprotective Agents,” was published in the Journal of Proteome Research. Syrian hamsters, golden-haired rodents often kept as house pets, can undergo periods of hibernation of three to four days, interspersed with short periods of activity. During hibernation, these animals' brains go through changes, at the structural and metabolic levels, to help neurons survive during low temperatures. Specifically, during hibernation the protein tau undergoes a chemical modification, called phosphorylation, in which a phosphate group is added to the protein. Hyperphosphorylation of the tau protein results in the formation of intracellular tangles whose buildup in nerve cells is known to drive the progression of Alzheimer’s. In these hibernating animals, however, phosphorylated tau and its tangles are rapidly and totally reversed as soon as the animals wake up. Researchers at the Centre for Metabolomics and Bioanalysis, Universidad CEU San Pablo, Spain, and colleagues set out to investigate the metabolic changes in the brain tissue of Syrian hamsters during hibernation. They hypothesized that understanding how the hamsters' hibernating brains clear tau protein tangles may lead to the development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Using a technique called mass spectrometry — which provides information about the structure of molecular compounds — the
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