It is estimated that every three seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are 50 million people who suffer from it and between 60% and 70% of these cases correspond to Alzheimer’s.
Finding the cause of that disease is critical to targeting a cure for the world’s most common form of dementia. A new study that has just been published in the revista Disease Models and Mechanisms may have discovered that critical trigger, by finding a link between genetic mutations in Alzheimer’s patients and the way a person’s cells produce energy.
A team from the University of Adelaide, in Australia, he discovered that mutations in a person’s genes affect cell functions in different ways. But nevertheless, Several Alzheimer’s disease-related mutations appear to affect cells (specifically brain cells) in the same way, altering the way they use oxygen to create energy.
This finding is the result of a very detailed study with this model, known to biomedical researchers, now on the basis that energy production is the fundamentally important cellular activity that supports all other functions, particularly in highly active organs such as the brain.
In this study, the researchers used the zebra fish to examine these mutations and their link to brain cells. Zebra are small freshwater fish that are extremely similar to humans at the molecular, genetic and cellular level.
In addition, they produce very large families, making it easier for scientists to examine the subtle genetic changes that are passed from one generation to the next. In this case, the team analyzed adult zebrafish brains carrying genetic mutations that increase the risk of developing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
The results show a common trend among fish showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and how their mutations affect the way brain cells convert oxygen into energy.
“This is very interesting because we know that when Alzheimer’s disease finally develops, people’s brains become severely deficient in energy production”Says lead researcher Karissa Barthelson, specialist from the University of Adelaide-. When we realized this common link, we took our research one step further and re-analyzed data from another research group that had studied an important Alzheimer’s disease gene in mice. We were able to see a similar effect, and this reinforces our confidence that we have found a fundamental early driver of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. “
Stop the disease before it starts
The study authors note that the brain is actually home to several different types of cells. Everyone has different and complex ways of generating and sharing the energy they create.
With that in mind, the team is now examining how Alzheimer’s disease mutations impact each of these cell types. The answers could lead to a new treatment that prevents genetic mutations from damaging brain cells, causing cognitive decline. One in three older people dies from Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related complications, according to the Alzheimer’s Association of the United States.
“It is very satisfying to have found this important common early factor that drives the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” concludes Barthelson. Energy production is the fundamentally important cellular activity that supports all other functions, particularly in highly active organs like the brain. SIf we can understand in detail what is going wrong with the use of oxygen and energy production, we may see ways to stop the disease before it starts, and that would greatly benefit the aging population”.