- Our bodies are constantly “recycling” proteins to get rid of old/bad/unwanted proteins that could harm us or that we just don’t need anymore.
- This is especially important in our brains.
- We have something called a proteasome that “grinds up” old proteins and turns them into pieces of protein (kind of like a garbage disposal grinds up food and turns it into tiny food particles).
- People that have Alzheimer’s or other neuro (brain) degenerative diseases like dementia or Parkinson’s have a toxic protein called tau that builds up on their brains.
- Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center studied the buildup of tau protein in the brains of mice.
- They saw that the more tau protein a mouse had in its brain, the slower their proteasome disposed of “old” or “bad” proteins (think of your garbage disposal getting clogged with too much food or grease and not being able to work anymore).
- They gave the mice a drug called rolipram to see if it would help. This had been used before to improve memory, but researchers didn’t know how it worked.
- The rolipram stopped a specific enzyme in brains from working.
- This let the proteasome speed up its “recycling” of old/bad proteins once again.
- In live mice, this caused the symptoms of neurodegenerative disease to improve.
- When too much tau protein sticks to it, the proteasome in our brains can’t break down old proteins
- This can cause damage in a person’s brain which causes symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.
- Scientists still don’t know exactly how it works, but Rolipram and drugs like it could slow down or stop the symptoms of these diseases by fixing the broken proteasomes in brains.
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