Proto Magazine (January 31, 2017): Why Plaque Attacks

Publication Date: 
Wed, 02/15/2017

To those outside the field of neuroscience, the process may have seemed a little ghoulish. Rudolph Tanzi and Robert Moir took autopsied brain tissue from patients who had died of Alzheimer’s disease and “homogenized” it, grinding up the tissue using a sterile, laboratory-grade mortar and pestle. “Not terribly elegant, but highly effective,” says Moir, assistant professor in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. The tissue came from a region of the brain that was ravaged by Alzheimer’s. In the form of a “broth,” the homogenized tissue was lethal to microbes - as much as 100 times more potent than penicillin, says Moir.

The tissue apparently owed its antimicrobial prowess to amyloid-beta, a protein whose plaques clog the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. That broth far outperformed others created from the brains of people who had shown no signs of dementia when they died, or even from regions of the diseased brains that didn’t have the plaques. For Moir and Tanzi, who is the director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at MGH, the results were a critical step in advancing a notion about the causes of Alzheimer’s.

The tissue apparently owed its antimicrobial prowess to amyloid-beta, a protein whose plaques clog the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. That broth far outperformed others created from the brains of people who had shown no signs of dementia when they died, or even from regions of the diseased brains that didn’t have the plaques. For Moir and Tanzi, who is the director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at MGH, the results were a critical step in advancing a notion about the causes of Alzheimer’s.

The conventional view regards amyloid-beta as purposeless junk that slowly accumulates in the brain as humans age.

http://protomag.com/articles/why-plaque-attacks