The cause of brain neuron death in Alzheimer’s disease – a key hallmark of the condition – has finally been identified, according to a ‘breakthrough’ study in mice.
Researchers at EARA members VIB and KU Leuven, Belgium, with the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) at University College London, have managed to uncover how neurons die by studying mice that had both human and mouse neurons transplanted into their brains.
This allowed the team to see that the activation of a type of programmed cell death, called necroptosis, was responsible.
The researchers also found that a molecule (MEG3) increased in the neurons during necroptosis and, by blocking it, they could successfully prevent neuron death in the mice.
This was only seen in the transplanted human neurons and not those from mice, making this even more relevant to Alzheimer’s patients. It also paves the way for better modelling of the disease in mice by understanding why mouse neurons are more resilient.
Meanwhile, a Canadian study at Laval University, Quebec, and the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, has succeeded in improving memory, social behaviours and cognition in mice models of Alzheimer’s, by developing a molecule that prevented the decrease of KCC2, which can cause hyperactive neuron activity leading to neuron death.