Neuroscientists at the University of Toronto have discovered new links between the brain and the brain worm, an organism that causes cognitive decline in humans.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that a group of neurons in the brain stem known as the dentate gyrus are linked to cognitive deficits and memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s.
The scientists identified a new class of proteins, called neurofilament proteins, that are involved in the transmission of these messages.
“These proteins are critical for the transmission,” said lead author Yigit Tov, a PhD student in neurobiology.
“They play a critical role in the communication between the neurons, and also in the activity of certain neural circuits.”
The researchers identified a group known as neurotrophic factor, which are proteins that can cause brain inflammation.
“We found that these neurotrophic factors, which play a role in regulating the immune system, also play a crucial role in brain inflammation,” said Tov.
The scientists also found that neurotrophic proteins, which were known to be involved in memory loss and memory formation, also appear to be implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“This finding adds to the growing evidence that these proteins play a central role in cognitive decline, memory loss, and neuronal cell death in humans,” said Dr. Yossi Dagan, a senior author of the study.
Tov is a member of the Neurosciences Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a member and a visiting researcher at the National Institutes of Health and an expert in neurodegenerative diseases.
“The findings are very exciting because these neurotrophins are involved, in a sense, in the process of transmitting the information that is being sent from the brainstem to the brain,” he said.
The discovery is important because the brain is a highly interconnected system.
“These proteins and proteins in the dentata are crucial in the interconnectivity of the brain, and these proteins are also crucial for memory formation,” said Dagan.
This study builds on previous research that has identified neurofilaments in the human brain, including neurofilactone, which is known to have therapeutic properties in treating various neurological diseases.
In a related study, a group at the Medical University of South Carolina discovered that brain proteins called cAMP-dependent kinase (CDK) proteins were involved in signaling to the hippocampus in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, which caused dementia.
The findings also reveal a novel class of neurofilaminases, which can bind to proteins called ubiquitin ligases, and are also implicated in Alzheimer’s pathology.
The authors are planning to investigate further whether the brain protein cAMP plays a role as a potential target in the treatment of Alzheimer, a disease which can also cause cognitive decline.
The research is being funded by the National Institute on Aging.
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