News / Science & Technology

Researchers Identify Potential Cause of Alzheimer's Damage

VOA News
Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have identified a brain protein that may have a role in causing the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease.

The finding could allow scientists to develop more effective treatments.

Neurons are the wiring through which information, in the form of electricity, travels through the brain. For these electrical impulses to get where they’re going, they have to jump across the spaces between neurons. These spaces are called synapses, and a protein called caspase-2 usually maintains them. One of the early effects of Alzheimer’s, however, is a disruption of normal synapse function, which can lead to neuron death. Columbia researchers thought caspase-2 might play a role in that degeneration of synapses.

They tested that idea by specially breeding mice who had amyloid-beta plaques in their brains and lacked the caspase-2 brain protein. Buildups of amyloid-beta appear to be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s symptoms, and mice with amyloid-beta plaques suffer memory losses like that of human Alzheimer’s sufferers.

The new mice, however, did not lose memory as they aged - in fact, it stayed the same as normal mice. This seems to indicate that when brains have amyloid-beta plaques, as they do in Alzheimer’s cases, the normal caspace-2 protein somehow causes memory loss.

The researchers think the amyloid-beta plaques in Alzheimer’s patients make caspace-2 and a few other proteins more active, damaging the way electrical signals travel through the brain.

This new knowledge about the activities of the caspace-2 protein may allow researchers to develop new medical therapies to treat Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disorder that usually strikes older adults. As it progresses, the disease causes memory loss and behavior changes. It also affects thinking and language skills. Patients usually need extensive care from relatives or medical professionals for years, costing billions of dollars.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says around the world about 18 million people now have Alzheimer's - and the number is expected to rise to 34 million by 2025.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs