Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disease affecting millions of people worldwide, may have found a new adversary: an ion channel called TRPM7.
Researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology at Fudan University in Shanghai recently found that TRPM7 plays a crucial role in the accumulation of toxic amyloid β proteins, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
The science behind the discovery
Amyloid β proteins form sticky plaques in the brain and are believed to be the main contributors to Alzheimer’s disease.
These proteins inhibit normal neuron function and contribute to cognitive decline.
The researchers found that the TRPM7 ion channel, which helps regulate important cellular activities such as excitability and metabolism, could be responsible for the accumulation of amyloid-β when it malfunctions.
TRPM7 is no ordinary protein; It performs dual roles as an ion channel and as a kinase – an enzyme that facilitates the transfer of phosphate groups to drive cellular activity.
The team found that TRPM7 levels were significantly lower in brain samples from Alzheimer’s patients and in mouse models designed to mimic the disease.
Promising animal experiments
In their experiments, the researchers manipulated TRPM7 levels in mice that were genetically predisposed to accumulate amyloid-β in their brains.
By increasing TRPM7 levels, they were able to restore synaptic formation and cognitive function in older mice.
Further studies found that the kinase portion of the TRPM7 protein activates an enzyme called MMP14, which helps break down and clear amyloid-β.
Implications for Alzheimer’s treatment
Although this research offers a potential avenue for treating Alzheimer’s, it’s important to note that the role of amyloid-β in Alzheimer’s is not yet fully understood.
Tau proteins, which form neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, are also involved in the disease. The combination of plaques and tangles may tell a more complex story about how Alzheimer’s develops.
Along the road
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease continues to place an enormous burden on global healthcare systems, costing US$355 billion annually in the United States alone.
With an aging population, the World Health Organization predicts that without a cure, the disease will overwhelm healthcare systems worldwide by 2050.
Research led by Shimeng Zhang offers hope in unraveling the complexities of Alzheimer’s disease.
Their studies have shown that manipulating TRPM7 levels may restore cognitive function and reduce accumulation of toxic amyloid-β.
However, more research is needed to understand the interplay of different factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and to validate these findings for possible therapeutic applications.
If you are interested in Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies showing that poor lifestyle choices can cause Alzheimer’s disease and that this new drug may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information on brain health, check out recent studies on a new early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. The results show that this brain problem can increase the risk of stroke for up to five years.
The study was published In Scientific signaling.
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