Alzheimer's Discovery May Lead to Therapy
University of Central Florida researchers say it has been known amyloid-beta gums up brain cells when it becomes too concentrated because it forms damaging deposits on the cells known as plaques. These prevent normal electrical signal generation in the cells, eventually killing them and driving the memory loss and other problems that plague Alzheimer's sufferers.
Study leader James Hickman explored impacts of very low amyloid-beta concentrations on healthy cells in an effort to mimic the earlier stages of Alzheimer's. The researcher found that over time, though there are no outward signs of damage, exposure to moderate amyloid-beta concentrations somehow prevents electrical signals from traveling normally through the cells.
Because the effect is seen in otherwise healthy cells, Hickman says the team may have uncovered a critical process in the progression of Alzheimer's that could occur before a person shows any known signs of brain impairment.
"What we're claiming is that before you have any behavioral clues, these electrical transmission problems may be occurring," Hickman says in a statement.
If this proves true, then the team has opened a promising potential path to an Alzheimer's treatment, Hickman says. In contrast, all currently available treatments manage symptoms of Alzheimer's after they first appear -- when it is likely too late for prevention -- the study concludes.