February 19, 2009

New neuron Alzheimer’s route discovered

U.S. researchers have discovered a new route through which Alzheimer's disease may either trigger or maintain the destruction of brain cells.

A team of scientists at the biotechnology firm Genentech Inc., discovered that beta-amyloid precursor protein, known as APP, and death receptor 6 trigger a widespread self destruction program that relies on caspases -- sometimes called executioner proteins because of the role they play in apoptosis, or programmed cell death, Medical News Today reported.

In the field of Alzheimer's disease, it is well known that a bad actor in the brain is a protein called APP, and what we found is a new twist on our understanding of what APP does, study co-author Marc Tessier-Lavigne, executive vice president of research at Genentech said in a statement.

APP is a large protein that sits in the cell membrane -- it's been argued that Abeta is toxic and contributes to the degeneration that occurs in the disease.

The researchers found almost by mistake that a different part of APP, which they call N-APP, may also be involved. N-APP can trigger neuron death and degeneration.

We've figured out how it is that it triggers that degeneration, Tessier-Lavigne said.

The findings are published online issue of the journal Nature.