NewsNEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES

Possible New Cause of Alzheimer's Disease Found

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Science  09 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5348, pp. 174
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5348.174

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Summary

A team of Dutch scientists reports on page 242 that aging cells seem to be plagued by mistakes in protein assembly, possibly contributing to the brain degeneration characteristic of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The researchers have found a new kind of faulty protein in the abnormal plaques and tangles that are hallmarks of Alzheimer's brain pathology. While 40% of Alzheimer's cases apparently arise from specific gene mutations, there seems to be nothing wrong with the DNA blueprints for these proteins. The scientists theorize that the mistakes arose during protein synthesis--and that such mistakes may help cause Alzheimer's in the majority of patients. Some researchers caution that the results are preliminary and are based on tests that could be misleading. But others say that if it is right, the work could help explain why age is the greatest risk factor for developing AD--because the protein errors would presumably increase with time. And if this phenomenon affects many proteins, which some researchers suspect, it could also contribute to aging in general.