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Alzheimer’s culprit may fight other diseases

Amyloid-beta protein attacks pathogens in mice, worms

2:00pm, May 25, 2016
A-beta fibrils ensnare yeast cells

LOCKDOWN Strong A-beta fibrils ensnare dangerous yeast cells (black) in a dish, a defensive move that may serve as an important part of the immune system.

A notorious Alzheimer’s disease villain may also be a germ-busting superhero. Amyloid-beta gums up the brains of people with Alzheimer’s but also takes out dangerous brain invaders, scientists report May 25 in Science Translational Medicine.

As strong as steel, tough strands of A-beta protein imprison pathogens that threaten the body and brain, experiments in mice and worms show. Those results raise the possibility that A-beta plays a role in the immune system and its accumulation in Alzheimer’s might be prompted by an infection.

Earlier studies have shown that A-beta can bust germs in cells in dishes, but the new experiment shows A-beta protection in living mice and worms. Mice engineered to have the human form of A-beta better survived a brain infection of Salmonella bacteria than mice without the human A-beta, Robert Moir and Rudolph Tanzi, both of Harvard Medical School,

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