AD Not One-Size-Fits All
Alzheimer's disease is thought to be caused by the buildup of abnormal, thread-like protein deposits in the brain, but little is known about the molecular structures of these so-called beta-amyloid fibrils. A study done at the National Institutes of Health and published in the September 12th issue of the journal Cell found that distinct molecular structures of beta-amyloid fibrils may predominate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients with different clinical histories and degrees of brain damage. The discovery paves the way for new patient-specific strategies to improve diagnosis and treatment of this common and debilitating disease.
A release from the publisher quotes senior author Robert Tycko s saying, "This work represents the first detailed characterization of the molecular structures of beta-amyloid fibrils that develop in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. This detailed structural model may be used to guide the development of chemical compounds that bind to these fibrils with high specificity for purposes of diagnostic imaging, as well as compounds that inhibit fibril formation for purposes of prevention or therapy."
Tycko and his team had previously noticed that beta-amyloid fibrils grown in a dish have different molecular structures, depending on the specific growth conditions. Based on this observation, they suspected that fibrils found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease are also variable and that these structural variations might relate to each patient's clinical history. But it has not been possible to directly study the structures of fibrils found in patients because of their low abundance in the brain.