MELBOURNE, FLA. Dr. Shaohua Xu, Florida Tech associate professor of biological sciences, has an original theory of the origin of Alzheimers Disease and has earned a $150,000 grant from Space Florida to test it. The grant was matched with $30,000 from NASAs Aerospace Medicine and Occupational Health Branch.
He is also the sole medical researcher at the State of Floridas Space Life Sciences Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the research is being conducted both at the university and KSC.
Xus theory, both controversial and praised, involves the start of the disease when molecules of a normal brain cell protein called tau do something very abnormal: they join together to form tangled fibers that the cell cannot remove. The fibers accumulate until essential substances cannot move through the cell and the cell dies, creating onset of the disease.
Using atomic force microscopy, Xu has studied for the first time the actual process by which the fibers form. Xu uses purified proteins to synthesize the fibers into their various forms.
We find that it is a three-step process, he says. First, molecules of the tau protein cluster together into spheres, each almost the same size. Next, the spheres join together in linear chains like beads on a string. In the third stage the beads merge together to form a uniform filament identical to those found in the brains of patients with the disease.
Advocates of Xus theory are numerous. Daniel Woodard, KSC physician, was the first medical doctor to review the research. He says, Shaohuas theory is revolutionary; his evidence is overwhelming. The medical implications are beyond anything in my experience.
NASA physician David Tipton, chief of the Aerospace Medicine and Environmental Health Branch at KSC, says, This could be the most important biomedical discovery ever made at Kennedy Space Center.
Additionally, Pamela Tronetti, medical director of the Parrish Senior Consultative Cente
|Contact: Karen Rhine|
Florida Institute of Technology