Rethinking the Cause of Alzheimer’s: New Research Redefines Old Theory

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A new study is challenging the old theory about the cause of Alzheimer’s disease in new Alzheimer’s research published in the journal, Molecular Neurodegeneration.

Beta-amyloid plaques might not be the cause of Alzheimer’s. The cause of Alzheimer’s may instead be the breakdown of the connections between the neurons in your brain according to a new Alzheimer’s study.

Beta-amyloid plaques are the buildup of amyloid proteins in the brain. In Alzheimer’s, there is typically a large volume of amyloid plaques that are suggested to cause problems with:

For many years, doctors and scientists have been pursuing ways to reduce the levels of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. Many of the Alzheimer’s studies have had limited success.

Scientists at the Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Australia decided to look for a different potential cause of Alzheimer’s.

The new study found that RNA editing might be a more direct cause of Alzheimer’s than amyloid plaques.

What is RNA editing?

RNA editing is a process that happens in your cells to make sure that the proteins created in your cells are not defective. One study reports that RNA editing is a therapeutic target for prevention of disease-causing mutations.

dna strand - Alzheimer

RNA editing could even be a potential therapy for:

In this new study, researchers found that manipulating RNA editing in the brains of mice was able to prevent neural connections from breaking down.

The Relationship Between Alzheimer’s and RNA Editing

In one new article, the senior author of the study, Bryce Vissel, PhD, stated:

“People living with Alzheimer’s experience a loss of these nerve cell connections which has been speculated to cause debilitating loss of memory that is synonymous with the disease. We now have compelling evidence, in a model of Alzheimer’s, that preventing the breakdown in these synapses is possible.”
After manipulating the editing process of RNA, they were able to reverse the memory loss experienced by the mice. They were able to do this without removing amyloid plaque.

This means amyloid plaques may not be the direct cause behind Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Vissel continued, “RNA editing worked to restore nerve cell connections without having to remove any amyloid from the animals’ brains. This in turn rescues memory, offering a new way forward to understanding and treating the disease. Having shown that preventing synapse loss offers a way forward to treating Alzheimer’s, our team will now accelerate work towards developing an effective treatment for this devastating disease.”

More Alzheimer’s Research Is Needed about RNA Editing

More research on alzheimer’s disease will help us understand if this is a viable treatment strategy in humans. RNA editing could be a unique, effective way to change how Alzheimer’s disease is treated.

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Wright, A.L., Konen, L.M., Mockett, B.G. et al. (2023) The Q/R editing site of AMPA receptor GluA2 subunit acts as an epigenetic switch regulating dendritic spines, neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease. Mol Neurodegeneration 18, 65. Read it here.

Booth, B. J., Nourreddine, S., Katrekar, D., Savva, Y., Bose, D., Long, T. J., Huss, D. J., & Mali, P. (2023). RNA editing: Expanding the potential of RNA therapeutics. Molecular therapy: the Journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy, 31(6), 1533–1549. Read it here.

Dyer, R. (2023, September 28). New Mouse Study Challenges Current Theory on The Cause of Alzheimer’s. ScienceAlert. Read it here.

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Daniel Chantigian
Daniel Chantigian, MS
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When it comes to complex scientific or medical topics, Daniel can successfully communicate with any audience via writing, social media, lecturing, and one-on-one discussions. Over the past decade, he developed these skills as a researcher at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, as a lecturer at the University...

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