National Health Service (NHS UK) (October 28, 2011): Alzheimer's, Yeasts and Other Animals

Publication Date: 
Fri, 10/28/2011

"A major breakthrough in Alzheimer's research holds out hope not only of early detection of the crippling brain disease but also potential new treatments," reports the Daily Express.

The headline is based on research into a peptide (small protein) called amyloid beta that is linked to Alzheimer's disease. This protein is found in plaques (deposits) in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, and according to one theory is responsible for the disease. The researchers created a genetically modifeid yeast model and used it to screen for genes that could modify the toxicity of amyloid beta. They found that the genes they identified also modulated the toxicity of amyloid beta in worms and rat brain cells. A further experiment in the yeast model showed that amyloid beta disrupted a process called endocytosis in yeast cells, a process in which cells take up and transport substances around the cell. This process also occurs in human cells, and genes that code for proteins involved in this process have already been identified as risk factors for Alzheimer's disease.

This sort of research is important in working towards treatments for Alzheimer's disease. However, this is early research and although the researchers are confident that these findings apply to humans, we will still need to wait for research using human cells before this can be confirmed. New treatments and diagnostic tools based on these findings are a long way off.



The study was carried out by researchers from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and a number of other American and international universities and research centres. It was funded by an HHMI Collaborative Innovation Award, an NRSA fellowship, the Cure Alzheimer's Fund, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Kempe Foundation and Alzheimerfonden.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

Contrary to the report in the Daily Express, new diagnostic tests for Alzheimer's and new treatments based on this research are not on the horizon.