A team of researchers from the University of Adelaide has discovered a link between the way cells produce energy for brain function and mutated genes found in Alzheimer’s disease.
The discovery published in Models and mechanisms of the disease prompted further examination of the link as a fundamental and early driver of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
In the study, the researchers analyzed the brains of young adult zebrafish with genetic mutations associated with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Zebrafish were chosen for the study because they produce very large families, which makes it easier to detect subtle effects.
The team used cutting-edge genetic technology and mathematical analysis to compare gene activity and detect subtle differences between normal fish and those with mutations.
While the researchers found that different mutations in different genes have many different effects on brain cell function, they also found that mutations in Alzheimer’s disease affect one very important cell function in common: the use of oxygen in cells for energy.
Principal investigator, Dr Karissa Barthelson of the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Laboratory at the University of Adelaide, said: “It’s very interesting because we know that when Alzheimer’s disease eventually develops, the people’s brains become severely deficient in energy production.
“When we realized this common connection, we took our research one step further and reanalyzed data from another research group that had studied an important gene for Alzheimer’s disease in mice.
“We could see a similar effect, and it strengthens our confidence that we have found a fundamental and early driver of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.”
Brains are made up of many different types of cells that have complicated ways of making and sharing energy. Adelaide’s research group now wants to examine how Alzheimer’s disease mutations affect these different cell types.
“It is very satisfying to have found this important common and early factor at the origin of the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers say the costs of Alzheimer’s disease to society are enormous, not only for caring for those who cannot care for themselves, but also for lost relationships with loved ones as they grow older. memories and cognition fade.
“Energy production is the most important cellular activity that supports all other functions, especially in highly active organs such as the brain,” said Dr Barthelson.
“If we can understand in detail what is wrong with oxygen use and energy production, we might see ways to stop the disease before it starts – and that would benefit our people immensely. aging. “