Alzheimer’s disease protein structure may vary among patients

Two people with different symptoms had amyloid-beta fibers with different shapes

Alzheimer’s disease proteins may contort differently in every patient.

In the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, a protein called amyloid-beta, or A-beta, forms fibers that congregate into plaques. A study now suggests that each person may have a distinct version of the fibers, which could affect how the disease develops.

Researchers led by Robert Tycko of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., extracted A-beta from the brain tissue of two women who had died from Alzheimer’s disease. The women had different symptoms and the disease affected different parts of their brains. Each woman had one predominant type of amyloid-beta fiber in her brain, Tycko and colleagues report in the Sept. 12 Cell. One woman’s fibers were long, thin and straight, while the other’s fibers were thicker and contained periodic twists, the researchers found.

The result could be important for diagnosing and treating the disease.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine