Nov, 2021 - By WMR
Researchers analyzed human data to calculate the speed of various processes that contribute to Alzheimer's disease and discovered that it grows in a significantly different way than originally believed. Their results can have far consequences for the development of new drugs.
Alzheimer's disease, according to Cambridge University researchers, does not originate from a single location in the brain and initiate a chain reaction that results in the death of cells in the brain, but rather spreads to numerous regions of the brain rapidly. The rate at which the disease damages cells in these areas, by the formation of harmful protein clusters, determines how quickly the disease advances overall.
The researchers used post-mortem brain examinations from Alzheimer's patients and PET scans from living individuals ranging from those with mild cognitive impairment to those with full-blown Alzheimer's disease to follow the aggregation of tau, one of two key proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease. In Alzheimer's disease, tau and the other protein called amyloid-beta form tangle and plaque referred to together as aggregates, which cause brain cells to die and the brain to deflate. This causes loss of memory, changes in personality, and difficulties carrying out everyday tasks.
The researchers discovered that the method controlling the rate of improvement in Alzheimer's disease is the version of aggregates in specific brain regions, not the dispersion of combines from one region to the next, by integrating five distinct sets of data and implementing them to the same mathematical model. This is the first time that human data has been utilized to monitor which systems influence Alzheimer's disease progression over time. It was made feasible in part by developments in PET scanning and increases in the sensitivity of other brain measures, and the chemical kinetics technique pioneered at the University of Cambridge throughout the last decade, which allowed the processes of aggregating and dissemination in the brain to be modeled. The researchers intend to look at the earliest phases in the disease's progression and to expand the investigations to other conditions such as progressive supranuclear palsy, frontal temporal dementia, and traumatic brain injury where tau aggregates also are created.