A team of Harvard doctors has discovered a protein "cement" that may be the primary cause of the sever memory loss and behavioral changes caused by Alzheimer's disease, known also as senile dementia, which affects 10-15 percent of people over age 65. If, through further research scientists can determine what prompts the formation of this "cement," they may be able to develop a means of heating senility entirely.
Dr. Dennis Selkoe, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Yasuo Ihara, a Med School research associate, co-authored the reported detailing their findings on the protein.
Doctors had previously thought that the protein tangles characteristic of brain cells in senile patients were soluble, meaning that they can be broken down, like proteins found throughout the rest of the body. The Harvard researchers, however, found the protein to be highly insoluble, similar to the proteins that make up bones and cartilage, Selkoe said Monday. The accumulation of protein tangles in the brain nerves to kill brain cells, which results in the senility characteristic of Alzheimer's disease, Selkoe explained.
Research stemming from the Harvard doctors' discovery primarily centers on isolating the catalysts which cause normal proteins to form the intricate, close bonds that make them insoluble. If researchers discover a way to halt formation of protein tangles, varieties of which are also found in eye cataracts and aging skin doctors may be able to slow or stop the onset of senility. Selkoe said, adding, however, that much a discovery is fat in the future.