Friday, September 08, 2006

98 AD news--fighting tangles rather than plaque

I know I just did an entry. I should have checked the news before I hit "publish"!
This is a study with enzymes which attack and cut up the tangles. I guess my understanding of tangles was (is) incomplete. I thought they were just dead neurons, caused by the plaque or maybe something else. This seems to imply that, if cut apart, the brain cells are viable again.
Researchers think they may have found a way to target neurofibrillary tangles, the jumbled bits of protein inside brain cells that might contribute to Alzheimer's disease....
Much of Alzheimer's research has focused on so-called amyloid plaques, a buildup of proteins inside the brain between cells that appears to contribute to dementia. But Geschwind and his colleagues looked at tangles, another part of the puzzle. These tangles of protein, called tau, are associated with cognitive decline in Alzheimer's and similar "tauopathy" diseases.
Neurofibrillary tangles are "a kind of compressed bunch of filaments that are just like a tangled bit of twine inside the [brain] cell."....It's not clear if tangles hurt brain cells or are just a symptom of a dementia problem....
Geschwind and his colleagues suspected that an enzyme known as puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase plays a role in degenerating brains...The researchers found that the enzyme appeared to prevent both the decline of brain cells and snip apart tangles. Research on brain cells taken from humans suggested that the scientists are on the right track....However, it will likely take years for a drug for humans to be developed.
When I see a story like this, I just hope that it will save someone else's father.
And then I think of nanotechnology. Can't we train little robots to eat plaque and untangle neurons?

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