Thursday, April 2, 2009
Researchers at San Diego's Burnham Institute say they've found a process in the brain that leads to Alzheimer's Disease. The discovery may lead to a cure. KPBS Reporter Tom Fudge has more.
Researchers at the Burnham Institute haven't found the root cause of Alzheimer's disease. But they say they now understand the process through which it occurs. Neurologist Stuart Lipton says the culprits here are free radicals, produced by a beta-amyloid protein. The free radicals attack another protein, which then becomes overactive. This causes it to chop up the mitochondia, which nourish the nerve endings in the brain.
"And when they're all fragmented they can't produce any energy. And without energy you can't keep those nerve endings alive," says Lipton.
The loss of the nerve endings result in the severe dementia of Alzheimer's disease. Lipton says understanding this process means you can seek to disrupt it. He says his team of researchers have already discovered a chemical intervention that prevents the protein from being attack by free radicals. Tom Fudge, KPBS