researchers decode the disease… thanks to a fly
- Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately one million people in France.
- It is caused by an abnormal accumulation of proteins in the brain.
What is the link between the fly and the human? The eyes ! The eyes of the fruit fly contain cells called photoreceptors, specialized neurons. They are valuable tools for research on neurodegeneration. In Scientist Reportsa scientific team explains that it has discovered the key role of a genetic variation in Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to these insects.
Better understanding Alzheimer’s disease thanks to fruit flies
The Australian researchers looked at levels of TOMM40, a protein encoded by the gene of the same name. “A strong genetic link exists between increased levels of the mitochondrial gene TOMM40 and Alzheimer’s disease, but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are largely unknown.specify the authors in a press release. This connection has been difficult to unravel because this gene is closely related to the ‘Alzheimer’s gene’ (ApoE), the strongest predictor of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.“
To better understand the link between the disease and the gene, the researchers therefore turned to fruit flies. The team genetically engineered the insects to produce excess TOMM40 protein. They found that increased production of the protein caused marked cell death in the retina. Also called degeneration, its level was proportional to the amounts of the protein.
Alzheimer’s disease: what lesson can we draw from this study on flies?
Secondly, they looked for the origin of the death of these cells in the ocular tissues of the flies. “We examined the eyes of fly larvae under a microscope and found an increase in a protein that marks the activation of apoptosis, called ‘caspase-3’ in humans, explains Dr. Periasamy, co-author of the study. This confirmed to us that apoptosis was the missing link we were looking for.” This term refers to a type of cell death. Overproduction of the TOMM40 protein leads to an imbalance in the mitochondria, which are part of the cells, and this leads to apoptosis.
Alzheimer’s disease: the need for new treatments
“Although this research is still in its early stages, it will be exciting to explore and exploit the relationship between TOMM40-related apoptosis and Alzheimer’s disease.”rejoices the specialist. In the longer term, she hopes that understanding this mechanism will make it possible to find a way to prevent it in order to avoid the death of neurons. “Currently, we don’t have good treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and we urgently need new options.develops Dr. Periasamy. Our research offers a possible alternative pathway for the development of much-needed therapeutic interventions for this devastating disease..”
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