Scientists find a new way to treat dementia

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Scientists from the University of Cambridge found a new mechanism that might help prevent the build-up of tangles of proteins commonly seen in dementia.

The research is published in Nature Communications and was conducted by Dr. Edward Avezov et al.

A characteristic of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s—collectively known as neurodegenerative diseases—is the build-up of misfolded proteins.

These proteins, such as amyloid and tau in Alzheimer’s disease, form ‘aggregates’ that can cause irreversible damage to nerve cells in the brain.

Protein folding is a normal process in the body, and in healthy individuals, cells carry out a form of quality control to ensure that proteins are correctly folded and that misfolded proteins are destroyed.

But in neurodegenerative diseases, this system becomes impaired, with potentially devastating consequences.

In the study, the team identified a new mechanism that appears to reverse the build-up of aggregates, not by eliminating them completely, but rather by ‘refolding’ them.

Just like when people get stressed by a heavy workload, so, too, cells can get ‘stressed’ if they’re called upon to produce a large number of proteins.

The team focused on stressing a component of cells known as the endoplasmic reticulum, which is responsible for producing around a third of our proteins—and assumed that this stress might cause misfolding.

The team hypothesized that stressing the component might lead to protein misfolding and aggregation by diminishing its ability to function correctly, leading to increased aggregation.

They were surprised to discover the opposite was true.

They say that if they can find a way of awakening this mechanism without stressing the cells—which could cause more damage than good—then they may be able to find a way of treating some dementias.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about heartburn drugs that could increase risk of dementia, and this supplement could keep dementia at bay.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that if you control type 2 diabetes well, you may lower dementia risk, and results showing that brown fat could protect the brain from dementia.

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