A new protein has been designed to enable scientists to understand why nerve cells die in the brains of patients who have degenerative Alzheimer's disease. It can also help them to find a cure for the illness, according to the University of Sussex scientists.
Dr Karen Marshall, who lead the study, said: "Understanding how the brain protein Abeta causes nerve cell death in Alzheimer's patients is key if we are to find a cure for this disease. Our study clearly shows that the aggregation of Abeta into bigger species is critical in its ability to kill cells."
Scientists created the protein that resembles Amyloid-beta (Abeta) proteins in shape as well as size. It also contains a couple of different amino acids.
In the patients' brains, abeta proteins tend to stick together and lead to the creation of amyloid fibrils. They create clumps between neurons within the brain, which will soon lead to the death of brain cells and result in cognitive decline.
It has not been clear to patients why the stickiness of nerve cells leads to the death of brain cells, or even whether the "sticky clumps" show effects different from individual proteins.
The study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports says that the new protein does not lead to the formation of sticky clumps or amyloid fibres, nor is it toxic to nerve cells.
Abeta can lead to nerve cell death in Alzheimer's patients, which can help to find a cure for the illness.
With the new protein, scientists can study the causes and role of abeta in Alzheimer's disease. Senior author of the study and co-director of the University of Sussex's Dementia Research Group, Professor Louise Serpell, said that the new discovery is exciting and "will contribute to research to uncover the causes for Alzheimer's disease and enable tangible progress to be made towards finding targets for therapy."