A study published in Neuron this week involving Sun Health Research Institute paves the way for exploration of a new treatment because the puzzle finally is solved: how the death of brain cells caused by stroke or head injury leads to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Yong Shen, head of the institute's Haldeman Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Biology, worked in collaboration with researchers at Harvard University. Dr. Shen stated that the study shows the generation of amyloid-beta protein - the key component of senile plaques seen in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease - can be triggered by a series of biochemical events initiated by a stroke or head trauma.
According to Dr. Shen, when the natural cycle of biochemical flow is interrupted, an imbalance results and an accumulation of the BACE enzyme can occur, which then results in the formation of amyloid-beta and the death of brain cells.
"With this important, new information, we now can focus on development of new drugs that can interfere with the biochemical imbalance and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease in stroke or head trauma patients," Dr. Shen says. "This is very exciting news."
The medical and scientific communities have known for years that strokes and head injuries can increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but why it happens has not been understood until now. This mystery has stalled the development of therapies to reduce the risk for individuals.
"Our discovery provides better insight into the aging brain and its vulnerability to AD, since any insult to the brain, including head injury, stroke, even the mini-strokes called Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) - can trigger an increase of BACE activity," Dr. Shen explains.
The study was supported by grants from the NIH's National Institute of Aging and National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the American Health Assistance Foundation, the Cure Alzheimer's Fund and the John French Douglas Foundation Fellowship. In addition to Yong Shen, MD, PhD, and Zhenyu Zhong from Sun Health Research Institute, co-authors include Young Ho Koh, PhD; Eugene Kang, MPH; Andrew Cameron; Shinjita Das; Mikko Hiltunen, PhD; Guiseppina Tesco, MD, PhD (a leading author) and Rudoph Tanzi, PhD from MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders; Miguel Sena-Esteves, PhD, MGH, Neuroscience Center; Shao-Hua Yang, MD, PhD and James Simpkins, PhD, University of North Texas.
Dr. Shen has earned respect worldwide for his promising research into Alzheimer's disease. Prior to his most recent discovery, he led research teams in the discovery of a biomarker for Mild Cognitive Impairment, and pioneered research that showed significantly elevated BACE enzyme levels in the brains of Alzheimer's patients trigger the development of the toxic amyloid-beta protein. He also found that amyloid-beta protein kills brain cells, or neurons, through a membrane protein called a TNF death receptor that contains a death signal which triggers a cascade of destructive brain degeneration and leads to AD.
His important findings - included in a progress report prepared by the National Institutes of Health for review by Congress - not only will advance our understanding of
For more than 20 years, Sun Health Research Institute has been a leader nationally and internationally in the effort to find answers to disorders of aging including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, arthritis and prostate cancer. Since its founding in 1986, the institute, together with its Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium partners, has been designated by the National Institutes of Health as one of just 29 Alzheimer's Disease Centers in the nation. The institute's Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research takes laboratory discoveries to clinical trials that foster hope for new treatments. Sun Health Research Institute is affiliated with the Sun Health non-profit community healthcare network.
Linda Tyler 623-815-7600 email@example.com