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Nerve cell links severed in early stages of Alzheimer’s

Synapse loss study points to new path for fighting degenerative brain disease

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2:00pm, March 31, 2016
Mouse brain cells

CRIME SCENE  Following an injection of the Alzheimer’s-related protein amyloid-beta, a microglial cell (red) engulfs synapses (green) in a mouse’s hippocampus. 

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, an overzealous set of proteins and cells begins to chew away at the brain’s nerve cell connections, a study in mice suggests.

That finding, described March 31 in Science, adds to a growing body of research that implicates excessive synaptic pruning, a process that shapes the young brain by culling unused connections, with disorders later in life. The new work pins the loss of nerve cell–connecting synapses on particular immune system molecules and a notorious Alzheimer’s-linked protein.

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