It is estimated that 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease and there is currently no effective treatment. In the disease, beta-amyloid proteins build up in what are called plaques, causing brain cells to die. The consequences are memory loss and personality changes. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have now shownThe plaques cause neurons to overheat and “fry like eggs.”
For the analysis, biologist Gabriel Kaminsky Sherrill and her team used micro-sensors, fluorescent polymer thermometers (FTPs), with which they can measure the temperature inside neurons. They added amyloid-beta to human cell lines and started the assembly process. It turned out that the temperature of the neurons rose by an average of 2.8 degrees Celsius once the beta-amyloid protein began to assemble into thread-like formations, the fibrils.
“Excessive heating of a cell is like frying an egg – the proteins begin to clump together and become inoperable,” Kaminski Schierle says. In one experiment, the team also found that the heat released might induce other amyloid-beta proteins to clump together, too. Using a substance that inhibits the formation of fibers, it was possible to lower the temperature of the cell. The active ingredient may have potential as a therapeutic agent for Alzheimer’s disease, even if extensive clinical trials are required first.
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