Since we have not proven what actually causes the disease, Strittmatter worked off the theory that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by abnormally folded proteins called amyloid oligomers. It is believed that these toxic oligomers are the primary cause of all amyloid-related degenerative diseases. They interact with neurons in the brain to damage synaptic function, creating memory deficits. According to this theory, amyloid plaques build up in the brains of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s as a result of these protein interactions. Strittmatter focused his study on figuring out exactly how these irregularly folded proteins interact with the neurons. They already knew that the bad proteins interact with prion proteins on the neuron’s surface, but they didn’t know how the interaction was communicated to the inside of the cell.
The study’s main discovery was the protein called mGlur5 or Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Five. It is the protein responsible for the communication between the abnormally folded proteins and the inside of the neurons in the brain, triggering the internal chemistry that changes the synapses causing the neuron to lose synaptic function. In essence, the protein mGlur5 crosses the cell membrane of the neuron and activates changes on the inside of the cell triggered by the bad, misfolded proteins causing the damage to the synapse. Additionally, Strittmater found that blocking the mGlur5 protein using a drug called MTEP not only prevents the damage to the neuron, but may even reverse the loss of synaptic function, bringing back the lost memory. This new knowledge of Alzheimer’s means a cure could be on the horizon.
Full Article and Source:
Alzheimer’s Cure on the Horizon