This human protein may unfurl toxic tangles in Alzheimer's disease

PBS NewsHour

Gene therapy that increases the levels of an enzyme called CyP40 can reduce toxic tangles of tau protein in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (right panel versus control condition in left panel). A human protein -- called CyP40 -- can untangle the neurodegenerative clumps that characterize Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, scientists reported Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology. The findings may guide new therapeutic avenues for these conditions. "We were surprised that CyP40 could disaggregate the tangles," Laura Blair, a biologist at the University of South Florida and senior author of the study, said because very few human proteins can take these clumps and undo them. In Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, certain proteins in the brain stick together in toxic, knotted clumps that cause cognitive decline.

Appendix removal is linked to lower risk of Parkinson's

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – Scientists have found a new clue that Parkinson's disease may get its start not in the brain but in the gut -- maybe in the appendix. People who had their appendix removed early in life had a lower risk of getting the tremor-inducing brain disease decades later, researchers reported Wednesday. A peek at surgically removed appendix tissue shows this tiny organ, often considered useless, seems to be a storage depot for an abnormal protein -- one that, if it somehow makes its way into the brain, becomes a hallmark of Parkinson's. The big surprise, according to studies published in the journal Science Translational Medicine: Lots of people may harbor clumps of that worrisome protein in their appendix -- young and old, people with healthy brains and those with Parkinson's. But don't look for a surgeon just yet.

Scientists develop 'smell test' to detect Alzheimer's

Daily Mail - Science & tech

A test for people who lose their sense of smell in the early stages of Alzheimer's could diagnose the condition before it strikes. Scientists have developed a simple scan which may be able to pinpoint dementia before memory loss even begins. The key is in someone's sense of smell, which starts to deteriorate in many neurological conditions, from Down's syndrome and schizophrenia to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. It is why there is a so-called'peanut butter test' for people with Alzheimer's who are less able to sniff out the spread from a distance. Scientists have developed a simple scan which may be able to pinpoint dementia before memory loss even begins.

Removing 'zombie' cells deters Alzheimer's in mice

The Japan Times

PARIS – Eliminating dead but toxic cells occurring naturally in the brains of mice that are designed to mimic Alzheimer's slows neuron damage and memory loss associated with the disease, according to a study published Wednesday that could open a new front in the fight against dementia. The accumulation in the body of "zombie cells" that can no longer divide but still cause harm to other healthy cells, a process called senescence, is common to all mammals. Scientists have long known that these cells gather in regions of the brain linked to old age diseases ranging from osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis to Parkinson's and dementia. Prior research had also shown that the elimination of senescent cells in aging mice extended their healthy lifespan. But the new results, published in Nature, are the first to demonstrate a cause-and-effect link with a specific disease, Alzheimer's, the scientists said.