Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to diagnose early – years before it manifests symptoms. There might be an opening with the help of Spanish scientists.
Causes of Alzheimer’s disease
One of the causes of AD is a buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Another cause is a buildup of tau protein tangles. There may be other causes, but these seem to be the best known.
AD is insidious because the person may be in good health and unable to remember. It is progressive. The memory does not go away in one day, week, or month. It devastates families when the person with AD cannot remember who they are.
The Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante, in Spain, published a study in the journal, Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy that is evaluating a novel approach to determining the level of beta-amyloid plaques that have accumulated in the brain. Until now, this was done during an autopsy. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/study-reveals-possible-biochemical-trigger-for-alzheimers-disease
Beta-amyloid protein is a piece or portion of the larger molecule, amyloid precursor protein (APP). This larger molecule is found predominantly in the brain. The Spanish scientists determined that APP sheds pieces of itself creating harmless fragments that have no effect on initiating AD. However, it also breaks down into fragments or scraps that can affect future brain health.
Beta-Amyloid Plaque Supposition
Seven hundred and seventy-one amino acids make up APP. The APP molecule is cleaved by beta-secretase and then again by gamma-secretase producing fragments of beta-amyloid that has 38, 40, or 42 amino acids. The beta-amyloid protein with 42 amino acids is stickier than its cousins and is the most likely to form plaques. What causes the different sized beta-amyloid proteins is still unknown. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41581-019-0129-4
The harm comes when the beta-amyloid protein molecules change their molecular structure and begin to fold over on itself. The misshapen proteins clump together and become a beta-amyloid plaque. Clumps accumulate and disrupt neural connections in the brain.
Glycosylation is a process of controlling the addition of a sugar molecule to a protein molecule (or other molecules). Controlling the attachment of sugar molecules to APP allows scientists to track the accumulation of the beta-amyloid proteins. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Amyloid-Plaques.aspx
Research is now underway to follow the yellow brick road of what causes the harmless and harmful pieces to be produced and what causes them to combine into plaques. Glycosylation is a powerful tool to conduct this investigation.
When the scientists know what triggers the production of 38, 40, or 42 amino acid beta-amyloid proteins, better treatments at predicting and controlling AD will be right around the corner.
We are learning more each year about predicting AD. There are medical experts that argue that we do not know the cause of AD yet and beta-amyloid or tau protein tangles may not be the real cause.
There is a lot of confusion about a disease that is still unknown from a diagnostic perspective.
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