Researchers create next-generation alzheimer's disease model

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  • Publicado : 9 de abril de 2013
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Alzheimer's is an age-related brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's memory, thinking, and the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks. Affecting at least 5.1 million Americans, thedisease is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's brains include abnormal levels of beta-amyloid protein that form amyloid plaques; tau proteinsthat clump together inside neurons and form neurofibrillary tangles; and neuron loss. Additionally, glial cells—which normally support, protect, or nourish nerve cells—are overactivated in Alzheimer's.Plaque-forming beta-amyloid molecules are derived from a larger protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP). One hypothesis states that increases in beta-amyloid initiate brain degeneration.Genetic studies on familial forms of Alzheimer's support the hypothesis by linking the disease to mutations in APP, and to presenilin 1, a protein thought to be involved in the production beta-amyloid.Researchers often use rodents to study diseases. However, previous studies on transgenic mice and rats that have the APP and presenilin 1 mutations only partially reproduce the problems caused byAlzheimer's. The animals have memory problems and many plaques but none of the other hallmarks, especially neurofibrillary tangles and neuron loss. To address this issue, Dr. Town and his colleagues decidedto work with a certain strain of rats. "We focused on Fischer 344 rats because their brains develop many of the age-related features seen in humans," said Dr. Town, who conducted the study whileworking as a professor of Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. The rats were engineered to have the mutant APPand presenilin 1 genes, which are known to play a role in the rare, early-onset form of Alzheimer's. Behavioral studies showed that the rats developed memory and learning problems with age. As...
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