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Upending textbook science on Alzheimer's disease
Date:11/23/2009

Alzheimer's disease is caused by the build-up of a brain peptide called amyloid-beta. That's why eliminating the protein has been the focus of almost all drug research pursuing a cure for the devastating neurodegenerative condition.

But that may be counterproductive, says Dr. Inna Slutsky of Tel Aviv University's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Her recent research demonstrates that amyloid-beta is also necessary to maintain proper brain functioning.

These findings may shake the foundations of Alzheimer's research.

In a new study published this month in Nature Neuroscience, Dr. Slutsky finds that amyloid-beta is essential for normal day-to-day information transfer through nerve cell networks in the brain. "If this protein is removed from the brain," says Dr. Slutsky, "as some drugs in development attempt to do, it may cause an impairment of neuronal function, as well as a further and faster accumulation of amyloid-betain Alzheimer's."

A reset button for drug researchers

Without amyloid-beta, a normal product of cellular metabolism, one's ability to learn and remember could be profoundly damaged, so drugs currently in development to eliminate amyloid-beta could be rendered obsolete. With Dr. Slutsky's research, a leap in understanding the cause and development of Alzheimer's disease, however, new, more effective drug therapies could be developed.

By studying synapses in brain slices of healthy mice and in neuronal networks growing in vitro, Dr. Slutsky and her team determined that there is an optimal amount of amyloid-beta needed to keep the neurons working well. Her students Efrat Abramov and Iftach Dolev found that if this precise balance is even slightly disturbed, the effectiveness of information transfer between neurons is greatly impaired.

"Synapses where neurons meet work as filters of information," says Dr. Slutsky. "What is really exc
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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