A new study…may help explain how diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s spread in the brain. Sometimes when neurons dispose of toxic waste, neighboring cells get sick.
“Normally the process of throwing out this trash would be a good thing,” says Monica Driscoll, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers University. “But we think with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, there might be a mismanagement of this very important process that is supposed to protect neurons but, instead, is doing harm to neighbor cells.”
“What we found out could be compared to a person collecting trash and putting it outside for garbage day,” says Driscoll. “They actively select and sort the trash from the good stuff, but if it’s not picked up, the garbage can cause real problems.”
The roundworms engineered to produce human disease proteins associated with Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s threw out more trash consisting of these neurodegenerative toxic materials. While neighboring cells degraded some of the material, more distant cells scavenged other portions of the diseased proteins.
“These findings are significant,” Driscoll says. “The work in the little worm may open the door to much needed new approaches to addressing neurodegeneration and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”[The study can be found here.]
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