Neuron Killers | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Feature

Neuron Killers

Misfolded, clumping proteins evade conviction, but they remain prime suspects in neurodegenerative diseases

By
3:59pm, August 1, 2008

As open-and-shut cases go, Alzheimer’s disease should top the list. The victim is clear. Suspects are in custody. Wherever neurons die due to Alzheimer’s disease, a protein known as amyloid-beta is always found at the scene of the crime, hanging around in large, tough gangs called plaques. Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (which goes by its initials ALS or the alias Lou Gehrig’s disease); and prion diseases, such as scrapie in sheep, mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, all have similar stories.

Scientific investigators have pieced together this much: A seemingly mild-mannered brain protein falls in with a bad crowd, the corrupted protein and its cronies gang up and mob violence results in the death of a brain cell. It’s a scene repeated over and over again in different neighborhoods of the brain, by different proteins, but all with the same result — the death of neurons and rise of disease.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content