Unclogging the “garbage disposal” in your brain could prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms

The Problem

  • 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.
Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels like this.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like this.
  • 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).
How a proteasome ID's "bad" proteins and then destroys them. Photo Credit: http://bio1151.nicerweb.com/Locked/media/ch18/proteasome.html
How a proteasome ID’s “bad” proteins (using ubiquitin) and then destroys them. Tiny lasers would be cooler, but this is pretty awesome, too.
Photo Credit: http://bio1151.nicerweb.com/Locked/media/ch18/proteasome.html
  • 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.

The Study

  • 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).
This is your brain on a proteasome "clogged" with tau. Also, word to the wise, do not do an image search for garbage disposal if you have a weak stomach. I was not prepared. Photo credit: smartplumber.com
This is your brain on a proteasome “clogged” with tau. Also, word to the wise, do not do an image search for garbage disposal if you have a weak stomach. I was not prepared. Photo credit: smartplumber.com
  • 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 Results

  • 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.

 

The Takeaway

  • 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.

Keep your brain functioning on a higher level and read more here:

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.4011.html

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-12-brain-disposal-neurodegenerative-diseases.html

 

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Author: Emily

I started Rise and Sci because I love science, I love teaching people new things and I want to help build a greater public understanding of all things science. My goal is to take hard to understand concepts and make them accessible to everyone- all in a fun an interesting format!

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