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Alzheimer's find may lead to new approah

Press AssociationPress Association 6/05/2016
Ruby McConnell kisses a baby doll given to Alzheimer patients at Briarwood Health Care Center © Lyn Alweis/The Denver Post via Getty Images Ruby McConnell kisses a baby doll given to Alzheimer patients at Briarwood Health Care Center

A discovery linking nerve stress and Alzheimer's could pave the way for a completely new approach to treating the disease, scientists believe.

Researchers found that a protein known to drive brain damage in Alzheimer's patients plays a key role in the way nerve cells adapt to stress.

The tau protein directs the formation of "stress granules" - molecular bundles that instruct cells to divert energy to self-protection.

But this process also appears to cause the tau protein to cluster and form "tangles" that eventually destroy the nerve cells.

While this does not pose a problem when stress is short term, chronic stress can be highly damaging.

Two potential sources of chronic stress are the accumulation of clumps of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, a known hallmark of Alzheimer's, and diseased arteries which are also linked to dementia.

In laboratory tests, the team was able to prevent tau clustering and nerve cell degeneration by reducing levels of a key stress granule protein called TIA1.

Lead scientist Dr Benjamin Wolozin, from Boston University School of Medicine in the US, said: "While still in its early stages, this work points to entirely new approaches to treating Alzheimer's disease."

The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Cell Reports, now plan to test their theory in animals with Alzheimer's disease.

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