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Why Chimps, Monkeys Don't Develop Alzheimer's
Date:5/25/2009

Study shows the plaques in non-human primates differ from those in humans

MONDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have long noticed a curious phenomenon among primates: Humans get the devastating neurological disorder known as Alzheimer's disease, but their closest evolutionary cousins don't.

Even more inexplicable is the fact that chimpanzee and other non-human primate brains do get clogged with the same protein plaques that are believed by many to cause the disease in humans.

The answer to this puzzle could yield valuable insight into how Alzheimer's develops and progresses, and now researchers report they may have a clue. They report their finding in the latest issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

They found that a "tag" molecule used to track plaque build-up latches easily onto plaques in human brains but not in those of apes and monkeys, suggesting that there is a basic structural difference between the two types of plaque.

Figuring out the difference, they said, could lead to ways to render human amyloid plaques as harmless in human brains as they are in the brains of other primates.

"What this tells us, first of all, is that plaques are structurally distinct in human vs. non-human primates," said study author Rebecca Rosen, a neuroscience doctoral candidate at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, at Emory University in Atlanta. "Why that is is a huge question [but] now we have a tool we can use to differentiate the structure [of amyloid plaques] between humans and non-human primates."

"We can use this [tagging compound] to characterize the toxic nature of the [amyloid plaques] in the human brain in order to understand them better," she added. "It also confirms the usefulness of the [compound, called Pittsburgh Compound B (PIB)] for diagnosing Alzheimer's."

But the true significance when it comes to treating or preventing the disease
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