Brazilian researchers identify brain cells most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s

Brazilian researchers identify brain cells most vulnerable to Alzheimer's
Brazilian researchers identify brain cells most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s

An unprecedented study on selective vulnerability at the level of individual neurons and mapping the first cells affected by Alzheimer’s disease was published in January in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience.

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Entitled “Markers of vulnerable neurons identified in Alzheimer disease,” the work was carried out by a group of researchers, composed of five Brazilians from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (FMUSP), in partnership with scientists from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), in the United States.

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The senior author, Prof. Lea Tenenholz Grinberg, from the Department of Pathology at FMUSP and associated with the Department of Neurology at UCSF, says that “some neurons succumb to the disease years before the first symptoms appear, while others seem impervious to the degeneration surrounding them and persist until the final stages of the disease. It has become an urgent question for us to understand the specific factors that make some cells selectively vulnerable to Alzheimer’s pathology, while others prove capable of resisting it for years.”

“The initial belief was that once these toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease accumulate in some neuron, it is always ‘game over’ for the cell, but our laboratory has found that this is not the case,” stated Prof. Lea T. Grinberg.

During the research, brain tissues from people who died at different stages of Alzheimer’s disease were studied, obtained from the Biobank for Aging Studies at FMUSP and the Neurodegenerative Disease Brain Bank at UCSF using nuclear RNA analysis techniques and quantitative neuropathology.

“The findings support the idea that protein accumulation is a critical driver of neurodegeneration, but not all cells are equally susceptible. We plan to continue studying selective vulnerability factors, a new approach that may lead to the development of therapies to slow or prevent the spread of Alzheimer’s,” explains Prof. Lea T. Grinberg.

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