Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia found in the elderly population, and is known for its progressive beta-amyloid proteins found in the brain. A new study published by the Journal of Neuroscience, reported a genetically engineered lab rat obtaining major brain changes associated with those of Alzheimer’s patients.
This study, also supported by the National Institutes of Health, is said to “advance our understanding of the various disease pathways involved in Alzheimer’s onset and progression and assist us in testing promising interventions.” said Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., a program director at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Through this rat model we can see that the beta-amyloid protein forms plaque that is derived from a larger protein called amyloid precursor protein, or APP. This studies hypothesis stated that an increase in the beta-amyloid production initiates brain degeneration, which in turn is the cause of Alzheimer’s. The 344 rats that were engineered had a mutant APP gene along with presenilin 1 gene (another gene known to trigger early onset Alzheimer’s). Through the behavioral studies, the rats showed extreme signs of memory and learning issues with age. As predicted in the hypothesis the beta-amyloid protein increased with age.
While there have been an abundance of studies done with rodents throughout the years for the disease, none have developed neurofibrillary tangles like these rats did. In addition, roughly 30 percent of these rodent’s neurons died with age.
With Alzheimer’s infecting over 5 million Americans and increasing each year, promising conclusions such as this can be the steps we need to put an end to the disease that has affected so many.