Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that affects millions of seniors worldwide. Though there are many theories about what causes Alzheimer’s, there has been little proof of what triggers the disease because it’s somewhat difficult for scientists to study. A recent study by researchers at Lomonosov Moscow State University and King’s College London used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to determine the trigger for Alzheimer’s disease. The following information may help you understand what these researchers found.
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Degeneration Caused by Amyloid Plaques
For several years, scientists have understood that amyloid plaques play a significant role in the brain degeneration that’s symptomatic of Alzheimer’s. In a healthy brain, beta-amyloid peptides are a form of protein that protects brain cells, but in people with Alzheimer’s, these proteins join together into clumps that block nerve signals and trigger immune responses that destroy healthy brain cells. Though scientists knew these plaques harmed the brain, they didn’t understand why these peptides were transforming into dangerous amyloid clumps.
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NMR Shows How Clumps Are Formed
With the NMR technology, the Russian and British researchers were able to see how bonds between molecules were formed. After looking at various forms of beta-amyloid peptides, the researchers zeroed in on an isomerized beta-amyloid peptide. This particular form of peptide occurs randomly as people age and is the result of a few atoms within the molecule forming in a slightly different arrangement. When these isomerized peptides come into contact with zinc ions, the peptides bond so rapidly that even NMR spectroscopy can’t see them form. Since both zinc ions and isomerized peptides become more common in the brain as a person ages, this explains why Alzheimer’s generally occurs among seniors.
The researchers hope their scientific discoveries can be used to find and produce a medication that keeps the zinc ions from making isomerized peptides bond. This discovery may give researchers the lead they need to finally crack the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease.
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