Scientists May Have Found Cause of Alzheimer’s
Researchers at the University of California-Riverside (UCR) may have discovered the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers recently published results from a study that looked at tau, a protein. By studying the different forms tau proteins take, researchers found the difference between people who developed dementia and those who didn’t.
By analyzing donated brain samples, researchers found that those with buildup, like plaques and tangles, but no dementia, had a normal form of tau. However, those with a “different-handed” form of tau and developed plaques or tangles did have dementia.
A chemistry professor at UCR, Ryan Julian, said “roughly 20% of people have the plaques, but no signs of dementia. This makes it seem as though the plaques themselves are not the cause.”
The amino acids that form proteins can either be right-handed or left-handed isomers. Julian explained that proteins in living things are normally made from all left-handed amino acids.
However, most proteins only survive for less than 48 hours in the body, and if they hang around too long, certain amino acids can convert into the other-handed isomer. So that means a left-handed isomer could inadvertently convert into a right-handed isomer, which can lead to serious problems.
“If you try to put a right-handed glove on your left hand, it doesn’t work too well. It’s a similar problem in biology; molecules don’t work the way they’re supposed to after a while because a left-handed glove can actually convert into a right-handed glove that doesn’t fit,” said Julian.