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Catching calcium waves could provide Alzheimer's insights
Date:2/12/2010

m, and Institute of Engineering in Medicine. The new UC San Diego finding that amyloid beta peptides spontaneously trigger the formation of calcium waves in networks of purified astrocytes from the rat brain cortex could prove useful for determining the role that astrocytes play in Alzheimer's disease. This, in turn, could help to clarify what causes Alzheimer's disease and could suggest new drug targets to either slow down or reverse the widespread neuronal death associated with Alzheimer's disease, the bioengineers conclude. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

Waves of Calcium

Using fluorescence imaging of purified astrocyte cells extracted from rat cortex tissue, the researchers imaged calcium signals rising and falling across networks of astrocytes. The calcium waves arose only after the researchers added Amyloid beta peptides to the astrocyte cultures.

"In the cultures of astrocytes where we have applied the amyloid beta, we see these huge scale calcium transients and changes spreading throughout the network. One cell will light up, and then all the cells around it will start lighting upa wave that maybe takes up 150 or 200 cells. That is an intercellular calcium wave and its propagation," explained bioengineering Ph.D. student Chris MacDonald from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. MacDonald and Siu-Kei Chow (MS bioengineering, 2009) and Diana Yu (Ph.D., bioengineering 2009) share the first author position on the paper and contributed equally to this work.

"I look at the mechanistic interpretations of the data through mathematical modeling. We see what is happening, but the question is why. And to do that, we need to probe a little bit deeper. Why does amyloid beta cause these waves? We know it does, but why?," asked MacDonald. Answering this "why question" could help researchers finally understand what causes Alzheimer's disease.

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Contact: Daniel Kane
dbkane@ucsd.edu
858-534-3262
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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