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Alzheimer's mystery protein unmasked

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5:10pm, March 18, 2008

A protein that forms plaques in people with Alzheimer's disease takes part in the normal process of forgetting and remembering, a new study suggests.

Scientists have long wondered why neurons make beta-amyloid, also called A-beta. This sticky protein forms the characteristic, neuron-smothering plaques of Alzheimer's disease. A-beta forms when enzymes snip a large protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP) into smaller pieces. A-beta then sticks to intact APPs, stimulating enzymes called caspases to clip APPs again.

A new study of human brain tissue suggests that the process is needed for deleting unnecessary memories to clear space on the brain's hard drive for new information.

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