Friday, July 7, 2017
DEMENTIA FIGHT Alzheimer’s breakthrough could pave way for raft of new drugs to treat the devastating disease
THIS close-up glimpse of tangled protein in the brain cells of an Alzheimer's patient could mark a turning point in treatment of the disease, scientists believe.
Boffins from Cambridge University have managed to generate the most detailed image of the protein known to be linked to the condition
Understanding the structure of these so-called "tau tangles" is expected to help in the search for drugs that target the abnormality.
Brit scientists may be on the brink of a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer's diseaseGETTY IMAGES
Brit scientists may be on the brink of a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease
This particular protein is a key feature of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Boffins led by Dr Michel Goedert, from Cambridge University, used an advanced type of electron microscope to zoom in on samples taken from the brain of a 74-year-old woman with confirmed Alzheimer's.
Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists provided a detailed description of distinct helical and straight strands of the protein in the neurons.
Tau tangles are known to disrupt a vital transport system that allows important nutrient components and other materials to travel along molecular "rail tracks" within the cells.
If this transport system fails the nerve cells eventually die causing the tissue to degenerate.
The imaging technique used by the scientists, called cryo-electron microscopy, studies samples at very low temperatures to provide high definition images of molecular structures.
Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Tau protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, has never been seen in this level of detail before.
"Many drugs work like a key in a lock, and this discovery shows us the inner workings of the tau protein 'lock'.
"The ability to picture what the lock looks like could help scientists design more precise drugs that act on the tau protein and stop damage to the brain.
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