Molecular-Level Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease Discovered?

Today, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the diseases that does not yet have a well-defined cure. But to find the treatment that could save a large number of patients, scientists must first find out what is really causing the disease. In this context, researchers at the University of California at Riverside may have found the cause of Alzheimer’s disease at the molecular level.

Usually, a patient is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease when doctors find brain plaques and tangles in the cells of their gray matter. However, studies suggest that a fifth of people with brain plaques do not show symptoms of dementia. This is why scientists at the UCR have closely studied the DNA tangles in the brains of patients with this disease.

Scientists have found that the key may be the “tau” proteins that form these tangles. Studying them could thus allow us to understand why they form knots and settle in this way.

Abnormal behavior of tau proteins

UCR chemistry professor Ryan Julian explained what is not normal with tau proteins in people with Alzheimer’s disease based on the isomer principle. Isomers are the different shapes that a molecule can have, and Professor Julian compares them to human hands.

According to Professor Julian, the hands are isomers. The right hand is the mirror image of the left hand, but not an exact copy. Thus, the proteins in the DNA of living organisms are normally all made up of “left hand” amino acids. Yet the tau proteins found in patients with dementia were “right handed”, which is unusual.

On the other hand, the tau proteins from samples donated by patients with plaques but no symptoms of dementia were all “left hand”.

A new track

Scientists say this finding could have big implications for Alzheimer’s disease research. It is known that Professor Julian and his colleagues are set to study how and why the brains of patients with the disease do not rapidly eject the abnormal tau proteins.

When all the points on the origin and manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease are known, it may finally be possible to develop an adequate treatment.

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