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UGA researchers develop first mouse model to study important aspect of Alzheimer’s
Date:11/7/2011

Researchers actually discovered Hirano bodies decades ago but studying them in the lab proved so difficult that all the medical community could say was that the bodies were in some way associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's. It was clear that Hirano bodies are composed primarily of filaments of actin, a protein that participates in many important cellular processes. But no one understood their function.

Fechheimer's lab has been at the center of research on Hirano bodies for nearly a decade. In 2002, it reported for the first time a method of inducing the bodies to form. Interestingly, these "inclusions" also show up in autopsies of people suffering from diabetes, alcoholism and cancer. Hirano bodies also are associated with normal aging. So understanding what they do when neurological processes go off the rails could add an important step in understanding how diseases that cause so much suffering progress.

In a companion paper to the new mouse model research, published this year in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, Fechheimer and his co-authors discovered that Hirano bodies may actually act as a "corral" into which more damaging cellular molecules are "rounded up," thus actually promoting cell survival and possibly even slowing the impact of disease. The idea that Hirano bodies may actually help protect cells from such disorders as Alzheimer's came as a surprise to the team, though much research remains to be done to make sure exactly what is happening.

Co-authors on the paper in Neurobiology of Aging were Furukawa and Ha.

"The new results show us that Hirano bodies reduce cell death in a model system in a culture dish," said Fechheimer. "Now we need to know if Hirano bodies have any harmful or protective effects on cells in the brain in a mouse and in human patients. We developed the new mouse model to begin to answer this question."

The new model system will allow Fechheimer and his colleagues to study the im
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Contact: Marcus Fechheimer
fechheim@uga.edu
706-542-3338
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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